Dad's body found nearly two years after he disappeared

dad's body found nearly two years after he disappeared

Peter Brown with his wife Natalie

A “wonderful” and “loving” husband was found dead nearly two years after he went missing.

Peter Brown, 46, died by suicide after disappearing from an NHS mental health hospital, an inquest heard yesterday.

Speaking after the hearing, widow Natalie Brown said: “Pete ran his own local painting and decorating business was much loved by his wife, and two children, parents Mike and Mary and sister Alex, and nephew Costa. He loved to laugh with his family and was a talented martial arts competitor, holding a black belt in both Karate and Jiu-Jitsu.

“Our children remember Pete as being the best dad they could ever wish to have had. He was a wonderful person full of fun and laughter who would do anything for his family.

“He was much loved by us all and will be missed more than words can say. We want to remember Pete as a loving husband and dad and not the Pete who suffered so badly under the grips of depression.”

Mr Brown had been an informal inpatient at Cross Lane Hospital in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, with depression and anxiety but on on May 8, 2019, he requested to meet a friend for the day.

dad's body found nearly two years after he disappeared

Peter Brown with his wife Natalie and their two children

The dad of two never returned and, almost two years later in January 2021, his body was discovered near train tracks in Scarborough, Yorkshire Live says.

Northallerton’s Coroner’s Court heard this week painter and decorator, who struggled with his mental health since 2008 and was at the hospital voluntarily, was classed as a low-risk missing person initially by police.

But this was upgraded to medium and eventually high-risk after his home address and the hospital grounds were searched and family and friends contacted. The inquest was told police protocol dictates that “the bases were covered” before permission for additional resources such as police helicopters and a dog unit is granted.

British Transport Police officers searched the railway lines “at the earliest opportunity” on May 10 but were unable to access certain areas due to “extremely thick vegetation”. TC Fiona Poynter, who led the search, told assistant coroner Jonathan Leach that officers had looked for signs of entry or exit in places that were inaccessible but she admitted it was possible that a body had been missed in the undergrowth.

dad's body found nearly two years after he disappeared

Peter Brown was missing for nearly two years

Railway workers found Mr Brown’s body nearly two years later on January 21 in 2021, in an area that had not been searched by officers. The discovery was made after trees and bushes were cut back to allow for work to be carried out.

Jill Pybus, a barber and distant family member, told the inquest this week that she believes she saw Mr Brown four days after he was reported missing. However, the description of the clothes Mr Brown was supposedly wearing differed from the one given by hospital staff.

Ms Pybus admitted she felt less confident it was Mr Brown when she saw the man up-close. Mr Leach said he accepted Ms Pybus was “trying to be helpful” but did not think it was Mr Brown she saw on May 12, 2019.

Mr Leach also said he appreciated conditions for officers were difficult during the search due to factors such as the time of day. He said he does not believe Mr Brown would have been found earlier if he had been classed as a high-risk missing person earlier in the evening of May 8.

Dr David Scoones, a consultant neuropathologist at James Cook Hospital, carried out the postmortem examination. The medical cause of death was given as hanging but Dr Scoones was unable to say – even approximately – when Mr Brown had died.

Mr Leach told the court: “Regretfully, it was not possible to say as there was no evidence to indicate it. I suspect it was within days or hours from leaving the hospital on the 8th [of May].”

Recording a conclusion of suicide on Wednesday, Mr Leach thanked everyone for their attendance. He also expressed his condolences to Mrs Brown and her family.

Mrs Brown, of Whitby Bay, North Yorkshire, added: “My hope is that the inquest into Pete’s death will fully explain the circumstances which led to it, including exploring whether there were failings in the mental healthcare that he received.”

Specialist solicitor Rhiannon Davies from Novum Law, who supported Mr Brown’s family this week, said they did not feel he received the treatment he needed while in hospital. They also believe he should not have been allowed to leave the ward due to his deteriorating mental health.

Speaking after the inquest, Ms Davies said: “Pete was clearly a vulnerable man who, due to his mental health issues, was at high risk to himself. His family spoke to hospital staff and voiced their concerns when his condition declined, but despite this, he was allowed to leave the ward, and tragically, lost his life.

“Tees, Esk & Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust must take steps to ensure that sufficient measures are put in place to mitigate the risk of patients coming to serious harm or death, when they are allowed to leave hospital temporarily. Pete’s family are deeply concerned that similar harm could come to other mental health patients if lessons are not learned.”

The family now hopes that the trust “improves how to deal with suicidal patients who want to leave treatment wards”. Zoe Campbell, managing director of the North Yorkshire, York and Selby care group at the trust said: “Our hearts go out to Peter’s family, who have gone through unimaginable pain and distress.

“We took steps to understand and address the areas that we could improve after completing a review of Peter’s care and treatment. While these did not contribute to his death, we continue to ensure that these are embedded in our services to make sure we are providing the best possible care to the people we support.”

Mr Brown’s family also criticised the decision to not class Mr Brown as high-risk right away and the amount of time it took to find his body. They have called on police to “improve their techniques to find those suffering”.

DCC Mabs Hussain, from North Yorkshire Police, said the response at the time of Mr Brown’s disappearance was “proportionate and appropriate”. He said: “I would like to extend my condolences to Mr Brown’s family and friends, and all those affected by this tragic incident. It is important to emphasise that our response at the time was proportionate and appropriate, given the information available to us.

“As with any incident, we will always look to reflect on and learn from the outcome, so we can continue to provide an effective service to the public. I hope that the inquest process has helped clarify the facts surrounding Mr Brown’s death, and can bring about a degree of closure.”

dad's body found nearly two years after he disappeared

Peter Brown with his wife Natalie

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