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'Tell my family I am sorry' - the first words of mental health patient Christopher Higgins after fall which would prove fatal

PUBLISHED: 07:51 16 December 2015 | UPDATED: 10:06 16 December 2015

Christopher Higgins

Christopher Higgins

Archant

The heartbreaking first words spoken by Christopher Higgins after he suffered what were to be fatal injuries in a fall at a mental health unit, have been heard at an inquest into his death.

The 36-year-old died one week after falling from a railing on a disabled ramp outside the Fermoy Unit, in King’s Lynn, where he was being treated for mental health problems.

At a hearing into his death, held in Norwich, PC James Haslam recounted how he was in a group of five officers accompanying Mr Higgins and staff when the fall occurred.

When he went to his aid, Mr Higgins said: “Tell my family I am sorry.”

The police officer described how, hours before the fall, on June 25, 2013, he had responded to an urgent call for assistance at the accident and emergency department of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

The constable admitted he was “surprised” to learn that Mr Higgins had not been sectioned under the Mental Health Act, after seeing him tugging at an open wound on his neck.

Hospital staff considered admitting him to a secure ward, but there were no available beds at the time.

Attending the initial call

for help, PC Haslam said Mr Higgins had been handcuffed

by police who found him “stabbing himself with a pair of scissors”.

“He was apologetic and said, ‘I’m just an idiot, I have said some bad things to people and I’m sorry’,” the officer told the court. “He was a mixture of being quite upset and ashamed.

“We tried to get a picture of what made him feel this way. He said he had said some horrible things and didn’t mean it. He said he had resigned a month ago and had been an idiot.”

PC Haslam and the other officers accompanied Mr Higgins back to the Fermoy Unit. They then remained in the area at the request of hospital staff.

Mr Higgins was put in pyjamas and allowed outside, at which point he fell over the railings.

“Christopher was quite calm, having a cigarette,” PC Haslam added. “I hadn’t been listening but I recall him saying something, and everyone looking away.”

He added: “I stepped forward thinking he is going to run, and in that split second he came over the railing.”

The evidence has now concluded and senior coroner Jacqueline Lake will sum up this morning.

The EDP has been running a Mental Health Watch campaign this year calling for better local services in the sector. The campaign launched in October this year and has gained support from both Norwich MPs, who have said there needs to be parity with treatment for physical health.

Do you have a story that could form part of our campaign? Email dominic.gilbert@archant.co.uk

•If you need to talk to someone, call the Samaritans on 116 123.

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