‘I let them in not even thinking what they were going to say and the first thing they said was we’ve found a body’
A father of two believed he wasn’t being listened to by mental health services before his death, his widow claims.
Kevin Peters, from Great Dunmow, Essex, took his own life in September 2012 – less than a year after first displaying signs of poor mental health.
But in the months leading up to his death, Kevin’s state deteriorated and his widow claims he was feeling alone, ignored and let down.
Speaking to EssexLive, his wife of 20 years, Holly Storey, claims that Kevin had two counselling sessions under the North Essex Partnership Trust – now EPUT – cancelled just weeks before he died.
Holly claims he left a note, directed at the mental health services, on top of one of the cancellation letters before he went to take his own life.
It read: “You left me and did nothing.”
The fight for a public inquiry
In November 2012, Melanie Leahy’s son Matthew was found hanged at the Linden Centre in Chelmsford just a week after being admitted under the Mental Health Act.
She has been pushing for a statutory public inquiry, through which witnesses can be made to give evidence under oath, into the county’s mental health services ever since.
According to Melanie, it’s the only way the affected families will achieve justice for their loved ones.
There are now around 20 Essex families supporting the fight for an inquiry, all of whom have lost a relative during or after being under the care of a mental health service, but the number is growing.
The group has now secured the support of Hodge, Jones & Allen Solicitors who have agreed to work on a pro bono basis to try to secure a public inquiry.
Nina Ali, Partner at HJA, said: “HJA is intent on helping these families secure the justice that they deserve.
“It is essential to get to the truth of what happened – all those families whose loved ones died whilst they were under the care of Essex mental health services are owed answers for their loss.
“A public inquiry is needed to ensure that a comprehensive and in-depth investigation is carried out and those responsible are held to account. It is only then, that things can and will begin to change for the better.
“We urge all affected families and individuals to get in touch with HJA. The call for a public inquiry is to include everyone affected by the failings of Essex mental health services: families of children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly who have died and individuals who have been through ‘the system’ and suffered but survived.”
Priya Singh, Associate at HJA, claims: “It is not only families of the bereaved who are coming forward but also ex-patients from whom we’ve heard shocking reports of abuse suffered by the victims whilst in care. These stories are harrowing.
“Vulnerable people have entered what are meant to be centres of trust and safety – a number voluntarily submitted themselves for help – only to be abused and exploited by some professionals who should protect them.
“They come in with mental health issues and leave – if they leave – in a much worse off state than before.
“No family, no individual should ever have to go through that. These families have been failed by the organisations that are set up to treat and care for patients.”
Holly met Kevin when she was just 15, and the couple were together for a total of 25 years.
They had two children together, including their son, Elliot, who suddenly passed away aged just 14 two years ago due to a rare genetic disorder that his family weren’t aware of.
Kevin, who was 42 when he died, worked as a postman in his hometown for 23 years and was the “friendliest” person Holly knew.
“Everyone liked him,” she said. “He always lived in Dunmow, we moved in together when I was 17 and we married when I was 20.
“We went on nice holidays and had a nice home, then I had my daughter and then my son about 20 months later.
“He loved golf, cricket, football, he loved being outside. He was a really happy person.”
But in November 2011, Kevin told Holly that he wasn’t feeling very well.
Holly thought it could have been a virus, but a trip to the doctor confirmed that Kevin was suffering with anxiety.
He was prescribed some medication, but soon after Holly claims her husband’s condition worsened into depression.
“He wasn’t getting any better,” she said. “He was going backwards and forwards but it was around springtime in 2012 when he took himself to Broomfield A&E and I got a call to say he was there and that he wanted to take his own life.
“He got a bit anxious because I don’t think he wanted me to see him like that.”
Holly claims that Kevin was discharged to see his counsellor and GP, and was allegedly told that he should have visited the mental health unit in Harlow as that is the hospital that covers Dunmow.
“When you’re in that state you just take yourself to the nearest hospital,” she said. “I was shocked that night that he was told he shouldn’t have gone there.
“You just go there, you don’t pick and choose. You just want help. To say that to him I thought was disgusting.”
In the summer of 2012, Kevin was signed off from work for seven weeks due to his mental health.
Holly had taken the two children out for the day on August 15 as Kevin had told her he was happy to be left at home, but when she returned, he informed her that he’d gone to the woods with the intention of taking his own life.
He had taken a toy from each of the children’s bedrooms, and Holly claims he didn’t go through with it because of the distress it would have caused the kids.
Holly and Kevin spoke to his GP the following morning, who advised them to visit the crisis team at Harlow’s Princess Alexandra Hospital that same day.
“After two hours he was seen by a mental health team,” Holly said. “He said they were discharging him.
“I didn’t really want him to go into hospital, I wanted him to be at home. He said the crisis team was going to see him.”
Holly claims the crisis team informed Kevin that they would visit him at home between 11am and 11.30am the following day, but she claims nobody turned up.
“I took my children out and I called him while I was out,” Holly explained. “He said they haven’t turned up.
“He called me in a panic because they hadn’t come to the house. He called them and said you were supposed to come and visit, but they didn’t know anything about it.”
Holly claims Kevin was informed that due to the shift changeover at the hospital, nobody had been made aware that Kevin was due to be visited.
Kevin was instead seen by the crisis team at his home the following day (August 18).
A spokesperson for EPUT said: “Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT) extends its sincere condolences to the family of Kevin Peters who was under the care of the former North Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust.
“Every death by suicide is a tragedy. Our top priority at EPUT is patient safety and our aspiration as an organisation is to achieve zero suicides for those who use our services.
“We continue to cooperate fully with ongoing investigations into the care of patients under the former North Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust.”
Kevin was having counselling sessions with the South Uttlesford Community Mental Health Team, under NEP, in the months prior to his death.
But in the August alone, Kevin was informed that two of his upcoming appointments had been cancelled.
The couple had gone away for four nights at the end of August, but when they returned on the Friday (August 31), Holly claims they found the second of two cancellation letters through their door.
The meeting had been scheduled for the morning they arrived back home, only a few days before Kevin took his own life.
She said: “That was on the Friday night and I said we couldn’t do anything about it.
“In total, he had a couple of counselling appointments cancelled. He used to get very agitated as they were helping him.
“Saturday was just a normal day back from holiday, then it was on the Sunday. I’d been out to take my children to get some new school shoes and when we got home he’d left me a note saying he’d gone for a long bike ride.
“But that would be Kev being kind, ‘don’t worry if I’m a bit longer’.
“When it got dark and he hadn’t come home I was a bit worried, he was one of those dads who would tuck his children into bed every night.”
Holly called 999 and explained the situation, before Essex Police began searching the local area.
Kevin was found on the Monday.
“I can still remember the police knocking on the door,” Holly said. “I let them in not even thinking what they were going to say and the first thing they said was we’ve found a body.
“The room was spinning, you can’t actually think what to say. At the back of my mind I was thinking no, we don’t have many bodies found in Great Dunmow.
“My daughter walked down the stairs and I was crying and I told her, and my son ran up the stairs and hid his head in his pillow.”
“He felt by the few appointments he had cancelled that no one was listening to him,” Holly claimed. “That person doesn’t look ill, everyone said to me after that they can’t believe it because Kev looked like Kev.
“It doesn’t mean to say you’re fine inside. He just wanted to feel better because he was such a healthy person. What happened?
“I thought he had a virus one day and then all of a sudden he had anxiety, but he just looked like Kev.”
Holly is now supporting the campaign for a public inquiry.
She said: “I think it’s so important, I didn’t realise it was continuing eight years down the line.
“Getting in touch with Mel and hearing from all these families, it really highlighted the fact of how bad it is.
“It’s not got any better in eight years. They need to not cancel appointments and keep up with them because that person feels like they’re not being listened to.
“When someone is that ill they should understand that.
“I just want to see all these families’ questions answered.”