Man with history of paranoia and depression leapt to his death

Wigan Infirmary
Wigan Infirmary

A WIGAN man with a history of paranoia and depression killed himself after jumping from a hospital stairwell - twice.

An inquest, led by assistant coroner Simon Jones, recorded that David Gaskell, of Bryn, committed suicide. A post mortem revealed that he died from pneumonia, as a result of traumatic injuries to his head, spine and chest.

He had jumped from the stairwell on two occasions and there was an element of planning as he went somewhere where he could throw himself from a height. His behaviour suddenly changed, from being stable and rational to throwing himself over the railings

Simon Jones - assistant coroner

Shirley Gaskell, relived the terrible moments on December 7 last year, she saw her 50-year-old son plunge to the ground, jumping from the fourth floor to the third at Wigan Infirmary.

She said: “He was braced, with his hands on the wall. I asked what was wrong and he said, ‘I can’t deal with this - my head - anymore. It’s taking me over. I have to do this now.’ I pleaded with him, but to no avail.

“I stood in the middle of the stairs to stop him. I went down two steps and I was at the bottom and the next thing, he was on the floor at the side of me. I didn’t want to leave him, but I had to get help.”

It was at that point that he got up and repeated the act.

Mr Gaskell was rushed to the intensive care unit, which was on the third floor and was transferred to Salford Royal Hospital, where he died a month later - on January 8.

Mrs Gaskell told the hearing, held in Bolton, that on December 6 last year, her son was taken to Wigan Infirmary after he overdosed.

Tests confirmed he’d taken paracetamol and Ibuprofen. It was also suspected that he had taken an antipsychotic medication - olanzapine. His kidneys had also deteriorated and it was thought he would need to have dialysis treatment.

Due to Mr Gaskell’s history of mental health issues of schizophrenia, paranoia and depression, he was referred to the 5 Borough’s Partnership NHS Mental Health Trust’s Rapid Assessment Interface and Discharge (RAID) team, which provides mental health assessments at hospitals.

However, he was deemed too drowsy to be seen on the evening of December 6 and when the team returned the following day, he had gone for a walk with his mum.

Not long after, he jumped from the fourth to the third floor. He then picked himself up, and repeated the action again, which resulted in receiving multiple injuries to his ribs, head, brain, spine, chest and lungs.

Dr Daniel Du Plessis, who conducted the post-mortem, said: “The most life-threatening injuries were to his brain and head - these alone would result in death.”

Mr Jeremy Holland, consultant neurosurgeon at Salford Royal, said that on arrival Mr Gaskell was in a deep coma. He was treated with various medication, but there was no improvement. After discussions with the family, he was put on palliative end of life care and he died on January 8.

Concluding, Mr Jones said: “He had jumped from the stairwell on two occasions and there was an element of planning as he went somewhere where he could throw himself from a height. His behaviour suddenly changed, from being stable and rational to throwing himself over the railings.”

Mr Gaskell had a history of mental health problems and in 2010, he threatened to jump off Thelwall Viaduct.

He had been receiving medication, namely anti-depressants and anti-psychotics, since 2007.

But he appeared to be relying less on these and his GP and the 5 Boroughs Mental Health Foundation Trust said they had no concerns for his welfare.

His GP, Dr Caroline Roper, said he was gradually coming off his medication. He was offered an appointment with 5 Boroughs Partnership NHS Mental Health Trust, but declined. Staff members deemed him to be in a good state of mind with no suggestions of self-harm.

Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust conducted an investigation with 5 Boroughs about the RAID team being unable to assess Mr Gaskell and whilst there were weaknesses in the system, it was ruled that this did not contribute to his death. Lynn Atherton, health and safety manager at WWL NHS Trust, said: “What appears to be the trigger was the prospect of having dialysis, something he didn’t want. In my opinion, if Mr Gaskell was determined to harm himself, no matter what mitigating circumstances we took, it could happen anywhere else in the community.”