Inquest hears of ‘smiley girl’ found hanged in Brandon care home

Thetford news from the Bury Free Press
Thetford news from the Bury Free Press
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A 16-year-old girl who was found hanged at a Brandon care home had been dealt with by police 10 times in the two months before she died, an inquest has heard.

The inquest into the death of Rebecca ‘Becky’ Watkins at the Evergreen Children’s Home in Bury Road, Brandon, heard in Bury St Edmunds this week that she had a history of self harm before being sent there by Essex Social Services.

On Monday, Coroner Dr Peter Dean read from a report by DCI Adrian Randall, a Suffolk officer responsible for safeguarding children, that Suffolk Police’s contact with Becky included calls to the home about behaviour to staff, alcohol use and damage.

He also said he had told Ofsted of Brandon police sergeant Keith Grant’s concern that police were being called to the home more often. Police were called 38 times in 2007 rising to 74 times in 2009.

Dr Dean also read a report from Det Sgt Mike Game who said Becky and a brother were placed on child protection in Essex after concern over their mother’s care.

He said she went to the home in April 2009. Becky, who said she was seriously assaulted in 2007, had depression, post traumatic stress disorder and bulimia.

On June 16, 2009, she told another resident she planned to kill herself on the anniversary of her best friend’s suicide. Later that day she told care staff she was concerned about a future counselling session.

That night, two staff members made three checks on Becky in her room but on a fourth check there was no answer. They found her inside hanging from a cupboard by a scarf and tried to revive her.

Senior care assistant Alexandra Birkett on Tuesday said: “I really, really liked Becky, a smiley young girl with a really troubled past.”

She said she had spoken to Becky for hours on June 14, 2009, but denied the girl had said anything about suicide.

Yesterday the inquest heard a statement from home owner Jamie Brannigan who said the home was not told Becky had been under a ‘locked door policy’ at the mental health unit she had been in, neither did they receive her ‘care pathway plan’ from Essex County Council.

He said that following an attempt to hang herself earlier in June, the home had raised observation frequency on her to more than Essex County Council had specified.

The home closed voluntarily in August 2009.

For the result of the inquest see our latest story