Northern Ireland

James Fenton inquest: Grandfather searched area where body found

James Fenton Image copyright Fenton family
Image caption James Fenton's body was discovered on hospital grounds, less than 40m from the ward

The grandfather of a man who died after leaving a hospital ward searched an area close to where his body was found 10 weeks before the police did, an inquest has heard.

James Fenton, 22, left his ward at the Ulster Hospital in July 2010.

His body was found in hospital grounds 10 weeks later, less than 40 metres away.

Mr Fenton's grandfather said he climbed a fence to search an area that police officers had not searched.

The coroner asked a police superintendent who was giving evidence how trained Tactical Support Group officers failed to carry out a successful search in that area on the same day.

The officer observed that a controversial decision had been made to search to "a natural boundary".

Earlier, the superintendent told the inquest the PSNI had changed its policy and practices on missing persons, as a direct result of the case.

In 2013 the Police Ombudsman issued a report critical of the way the police had handled the case, and 12 officers were subsequently disciplined.

During his evidence, the officer issued an apology to the Fenton family for the way the police had handled the search for James.

'Not appropriate'

The inquest also heard on Thursday from an expert in psychiatry that he had concerns about James' care.

Giving evidence by video link, Professor Seena Fazel, a forensic psychiatrist at Oxford University, repeated the views of a report he wrote for the Coroner's Office in March 2015, and stated that he had "a number of concerns about Mr Fenton's medical care".

In it, he said he believed that James was likely to have been clinically depressed, that he should have been diagnosed as such on assessment at the ward, and that he should have been monitored more closely.

"I do not think that placing Mr Fenton on routine observation was an appropriate decision," he said.

He also repeated his belief that James most likely took his own life.

He further stated he felt that the junior doctor who first assessed Mr Fenton should have discussed her findings and actions formally with senior psychiatric colleagues.

She has previously told the court she did have an informal conversation with senior colleagues about what she had done.


On Wednesday, two other senior consultant psychiatrists told the court they disagreed with Professor Fazel's conclusions.

They were Dr Nial Quigley, the Director of Mental Health services at the South Eastern Trust, and Dr Neta Chada, a consultant psychiatrist at the neighbouring Southern Trust.

Both doctors' evidence supported the diagnosis and level of observation chosen by the clinical staff at the Ulster Hospital.

Professor Fazel told a barrister for the Fenton family that in one matter, Dr Quigley had "cherry-picked a lot of evidence that supported his view".

Coroner Joe McCriskin is due to deliver his findings on Friday.

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