Mum’s desperate search for answers seven years after son was found hanged

It’s been seven years since Matthew Leahy was found hanged in his room at a mental health unit in Essex, days after calling his mum claiming he had been raped.

At just 20 years of age he had his own business and dreams of going travelling, but had begun to display signs of delusional disorder a year earlier.

His mum, Melanie, remembers feeling ‘relieved’ on the day he was sectioned at Linden Mental Health Center in November 2012.

Hoping Matthew would finally get the treatment he needed, she was told to visit him at the end of the week after he text her saying ‘I’m in hell’.

But the next time she saw him he was dead on a trolley – and Melanie is still searching for answers seven years on

‘We thought he was going to a place of safety’ Melanie told

‘I thought he was in the hands of professionals and he finally would get the help he needed.’

Matthew Leahy was admitted to the Linden Mental Health Clinic on November 7, 2012 and was found hanged 7 days later (Picture: Melanie Leahy)

Matthew Leahy was admitted to the Linden Mental Health Clinic on November 7, 2012 and was found hanged 7 days later (Picture: Melanie Leahy)

‘Doctors said he needed time to settle, so I said to him I will come and see you at the end of the week. Well, I never got to see him alive again.

‘On day seven I got a call from his doctor to say Matthew has been found hanging and I just collapsed.  By the time I got there, he was dead on a trolley.

‘I just wanted to kiss him but I was told ‘do not touch him, this is a crime scene’. ‘It’s been seven years and I still haven’t been given a the full picture of what happened to my son on the day he died.’

Seven years of investigations 

An inquest into Matthew’s death could not conclude suicide and returned an open verdict – meaning there was not enough evidence to determine how he died.

Melanie was dealt a further blow when Essex Police dropped a two year investigation into the death of Matthew and 24 others under the the care of the then North Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (NEP) last year.

The force said that while they found ‘clear and basic failings’, there was insufficient evidence to bring corporate manslaughter charges, leaving Melanie and other families ‘devastated’.

Most recently, a Parliamentary Health and Social Care Ombudsman (PHSCO) investigation into Matthew and another man’s death uncovered a ‘systemic failure to tackle repeated and critical failings’  over 10 years.

‘What makes me sad is the fact that they are not learning from his death’ Melanie said. ‘Matthew would be 27 now. Sometimes I will see his ex-girlfriend, she’s had two children. ‘I look at them and it kills me. I think that might be my granddaughter. We are heart broken, even now.

‘I still haven’t had the chance to grieve because I am still fighting this system.  It’s destroyed my relationships. It’s taken over my life.

I have had families contacting me in the care of the same trust.

‘It just brings it all back. There are too many Matthews.’

The Ombudsman report, published in June, said staff at the Linden Centre falsified care plans after Matthew’s death, failed to take his rape claim seriously and didn’t protect patients from equipment that could be used for hanging.

It called on NHS Improvements (NHSI) to conduct a national review into the trust’s failings and consider whether a further government-backed public inquiry into his death would be necessary.

However, the NHSI can’t start its investigation until a separate ongoing review, conducted by Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has been complete.

Melanie, 54,  has been told it could be another three months until the HSE will decide whether to prosecute the trust or not, and isn’t prepared to wait that long.

As the seventh anniversary of Matthew’s death approaches, she has started a government petition calling for a  public inquiry into Matthews death under the care of NEP  and the ‘inadequate’ investigations that followed.

She said: ‘I’m calling for a public inquiry now. It’s been seven years and still no one has been held account. What lengths does a bereaved parent have to go through to find the truth?

‘A public inquiry could help save many lives. So much could be learnt from Matthew’s death. ‘I am not just doing this for my Matthew, I am doing this for all the other Matthews out there.

I will not rest until I find out the truth’.

You can sign Melanie’s petition here.

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