Christopher Wakeman's mum 'angry' at care home over bridge death

  • 20 June 2012
  • From the section Kent
Catherine Butters
Image caption Mrs Butters said the care home should have been looking after her son all the time

A mother whose autistic son walked out of a secure care home in Kent and fell to his death from a bridge has said she feels failed by the home's operators.

Catherine Butters spoke out after a coroner recorded a narrative verdict at an inquest into her son's death.

Mrs Butters said she felt let down by Byfield Court, near Sittingbourne, where Christopher Wakeman was assigned one-to-one supervision.

The home's operator ACH described his death as a "tragic accident".

Mrs Butters said: "He was lovely. A beautiful boy inside and out. We all loved him dearly. He was very special to all of us. And he's been taken away.

"I feel completely let down. I feel they failed. They should have been looking after him all the time. So I feel really angry with them and sick about it all."

Front door keys

The inquest heard that 23-year-old Mr Wakeman had learning difficulties and severe autism.

He picked up keys to the front door while unsupervised and left the home, the inquest was told.

Image caption It is unclear why Mr Wakeman climbed the bridge but he did not deliberately jump, the coroner said

He died after falling 25ft from a road bridge above the A249 near Bobbing last November.

It followed three attempts by Mr Wakeman to leave the home in August and October, the coroner heard

Kent coroner Patricia Harding delivered a narrative verdict. She concluded that Mr Wakeman did not deliberately jump from the bridge but said it was unclear why he climbed it.

She also said she was satisfied that Byfield Court, in Sheppey Way, Bobbing, which provides residential support for people with learning disabilities, had taken action to prevent a similar incident.

ACH issued a statement which said: "We extend, once again, our deepest sympathies to Christopher Wakeman's family following this tragic accident.

"Unfortunately, ACH is not permitted to make any further comment at this time due to the matter being the subject of an open safeguarding inquiry."

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