Inquest starts into death of woman at Market Gates car park in Great Yarmouth, in August 2012

Donna Carrigan jumped to her death from the top of a multi-storey car park in Great Yarmouth. Photo: Supplied Donna Carrigan jumped to her death from the top of a multi-storey car park in Great Yarmouth. Photo: Supplied

Thursday, July 3, 2014
6:25 AM

A woman with mental health problems jumped to her death from the top floor of a multi-storey car park, after being allowed out of a secure hospital on unescorted leave, an inquest heard.

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Donna Carrigan, 47, who was a voluntary patient at Northgate Hospital in Great Yarmouth told staff she wanted to go to the nearby shop to buy cigarettes.

Although she was an informal patient, staff could have prevented her going using powers under the Mental Health Act.

When she did not return, staff at the mental health hospital grew concerned and reported her as missing to police.

About 45 minutes after leaving the hospital, which is run by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, she jumped to her death from the top of the Market Gates car park in the town.

Despite attempts to resuscitate her, Mrs Carrigan was declared dead at the scene at about 10.20am on August 10, 2012.

An inquest in Norwich heard yesterday that Paul Whatrup, a social worker and approved mental health professional at the hospital, granted her the unescorted leave.

However, he admitted at the inquest that he had not checked Mrs Carrigan’s case notes, which said she had only previously been released on escorted leave. He said that if he had checked the notes he would not have allowed her leave. He was also unaware that Mrs Carrigan had tried to kill herself after she had been discharged from hospital the previous month.

Mr Whatrup said he had asked charge nurse Angus Mullinder whether she could be granted leave, and he said that he told him it was fine, but he should check whether she was suicidal beforehand.

Mr Whatrup said he included Mr Mullinder’s comments in the initial report he completed following the incident, but he claimed the words were deleted by the trust’s legal team in his subsequent report.

Mr Mullinder denied saying the words at the inquest. He said he had assessed Mrs Carrigan’s mental health after she had tried to kill herself on July 26, a few weeks before her death.

He said that Mr Whatrup had asked him, at about 9am on August 10, 2012, whether Mrs Carrigan could go to the shops. He was on the phone at the time, but said he put it on hold.

He said that rather than telling Mr Whatrup that it was fine for Mrs Carrigan to leave, subject to her not being suicidal, he told him: “She may be informal, but she’s at risk of suicide and is in need of a full assessment.” He said he expected Mr Whatrup to then check Mrs Carrigan’s notes.

Earlier, Sharon Ablett, a clinical support worker at the hospital, who had spoken to Mrs Carrigan earlier that day, said she subsequently visited the nearby shop and was told that Mrs Carrigan had been there earlier, just after 9am. She had bought cigarettes, a lighter and a couple of bottles of ‘Scrumpy Jack’ cider.

Earlier, Mrs Carrigan’s husband Kenneth, who was separated from her at the time of her death, described her as a “lovely person. “All she had ever wanted was help,” he added.

Ryan Cushing, the car park attendant at Market Gates, said he had seen Mrs Carrigan, of St Hilda’s Crescent, Gorleston, at the car park, and then falling over the side. The East Anglian Air Ambulance also attended. The inquest continues.

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