South East Wales

Cancer patient Neil Jones took his own life, coroner concludes

Neil Jones
Image caption Neil Jones, who went missing in August 2011, had cancer and depression

A cancer patient who disappeared from a hospital he was being treated in for depression killed himself in woodland, a coroner has ruled.

Neil Robert Jones, 37, hanged himself less than a mile from the hospital but his body was not found until 20 months after his disappearance.

Mr Jones, of Pontyclun, Rhondda Cynon Taf, was co-operating with his treatment, the Aberdare inquest heard.

Coroner Louise Hunt concluded he had taken his own life.

In August 2011, South Wales Police launched an appeal and extensive search for Mr Jones when he disappeared while he was being treated in the Royal Glamorgan Hospital in Llantrisant.

However his remains were found by a walker in April this year in forestry in Talbot Green close to the hospital.

The inquest heard Mr Jones had a ligature around his neck.

'Feeling agitated'

Mental health staff told Aberdare Coroner's Court Mr Jones had been co-operating with his treatment when he went missing.

But two days before he disappeared he had told staff at the hospital he was feeling agitated and asked for more help.

This led to him being placed on a higher level of supervision requiring checks every 15 minutes.

On the morning of his disappearance, his nurse Neil Evans told the court Mr Jones appeared well and asked him to go on supervised leave with him in the hospital grounds at about 09:30 BST, which was part of his treatment plan.

Mr Evans was doing a medicines round and Mr Jones agreed to wait half an hour.

He was checked at 09:45 but 15 minutes later he had disappeared.

Mr Evans said Mr Jones had gone to reception and said he had been hit by a bus but when the nurse went to collect him he had gone.

Det Sgt Sion Parker, from South Wales Police, told the inquest the area was "flooded with police" after he was reported missing.

He said this was done because Mr Jones was considered high-risk and had not received treatment following the collision with the bus.

He said officers drove through the main paths in the area where Mr Jones was later found but said the dense canopy cover would have made it difficult to spot anyone.

The inquest was told Mr Jones's bank cards had not been used and his phone had been switched off after his disappearance.

Ms Hunt asked the officer what he thought had happened to Mr Jones.

"Mr Jones had escaped from the Royal Glamorgan Hospital. He's made his way to the ring road around the hospital and collided with the bus," he said.

"It would appear that those injuries were minor and did not impair his mobility and allowed Mr Jones to make his way to Smilog woods.

"It appears that he's taken his life..."

'Difficult to find'

The body was found on an incline between two trees in an isolated and "difficult location to find somebody".

Mr Jones had been living independently in the south-east of England where he worked as an IT engineer, his brother-in-law Dr Malcolm Gajraj told the coroner.

When he was diagnosed with cancer he moved in with his parents in Pontyclun in 2011.

Dr Gajraj said his brother-in-law's cancer was not curable but could be controlled, and Mr Jones was using diet and exercise to manage his health alongside his medical treatment.

His mental health had deteriorated because his condition was not improving and he was referred to mental health crisis services in May 2011 and started medication.

The court heard 10 years earlier Mr Jones had been treated for depression.

He soon had suicidal thoughts, according to Dr Gajraj, and reluctantly admitted himself into the Royal Glamorgan Hospital.

"It was probably the last thing he wanted to do," Dr Gajraj told the court.

His family raised concerns about whether the ward should have been locked but it was Cwm Taf Health Board's policy to have unlocked mental health wards at that time.

The coroner said "something happened" on the day Mr Jones went missing but "we'll never be able to know why".

After the hearing, the chief executive of Cwm Taf Health Board Allison Williams, said it was "a very sad case".

"On behalf of the health board, I would like to extend my sincere and heartfelt condolences to his family," she said.

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