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Fakenham mental health patient died after his wife smuggled morphine into Hellesdon Hospital

PUBLISHED: 08:30 13 July 2016 | UPDATED: 08:30 13 July 2016

Hellesdon Hospital, the headquarters of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust.  Photo: Bill Smith

Hellesdon Hospital, the headquarters of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust. Photo: Bill Smith

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A mental health patient died after taking morphine that he pressured his wife to bring him in hospital, a coroner has said.

Dale Easton died at Hellesdon Hospital on September 27 last year, nine days after he was admitted as a voluntary patient.

The 28-year-old, of Highfield Close in Great Ryburgh, near Fakenham, had a long history of mental health problems, Monday’s inquest at Norfolk Coroner’s Court heard.

In a statement read out at the hearing, Mr Easton’s mother, Patricia Stolday, said she had visited him the day before his death.

She said his wife, Philippa Easton, came at the same time, and had silently handed her son a bottle she had taken from a child’s backpack, which he then concealed. She said Mrs Easton had “a face like thunder” at the time.

Hospital staff said he appeared to be fine when they checked on him at 6am the following day, but he was not breathing when they checked an hour later. Despite efforts to revive him, he was pronounced dead.

A nurse later found the bottle, with clear liquid in it, in a pillow case, and called the police.

Det Sgt Michael Roxby told the inquest he interviewed Mr Easton’s widow under caution on January 22, and she confirmed she had brought the bottle, containing morphine, into the hospital at her husband’s request.

He added that she felt compelled to do so, after Mr Easton threatened and grabbed her earlier that day, and told her how to get the drug.

DS Roxby added Mrs Easton said she had been a victim of two or three incidents of domestic abuse.

He said a file was prepared for the Crown Prosecution Service, which decided not to take any action against Mrs Easton.

Mr Easton’s family told assistant coroner Nicholas Holroyd they would appeal against this decision.

Mr Holroyd said: “I have heard evidence that he had an addiction to crack cocaine. I see no reasons to disbelieve it. There was clearly a drug issue. It appears that while he was in hospital he put his wife under some pressure to bring in some morphine.

“I have no doubt that the morphine that he invited her to bring in was taken by him voluntarily at some time thereafter.

“I have no doubt he was not trying to take his own life. I expect he had taken that form of morphine before, and he was doing so again probably to try to alleviate some of the unhappy symptoms he was clearly suffering from.”

Mr Holroyd concluded Mr Easton’s death was “drug related”.

Speaking afterwards, Mrs Easton said: “He is going to be sadly missed. We will always remember him.”

His family described him as a “lovable character”.

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