Hospital death claims in coroner's hands

A CORONER will be asked to review evidence compiled by police officers investigating a serious allegation about the death of a patient at a former psychiatric hospital in Suffolk.

By Richard Smith

A CORONER will be asked to review evidence compiled by police officers investigating a serious allegation about the death of a patient at a former psychiatric hospital in Suffolk.

A long-running police inquiry into a complaint made by a former employee at the now closed St Audry's Hospital, Melton, near Woodbridge, is about to enter a significant stage.

Suffolk police has been examining the death of a 75-year-old at the hospital more than 20 years ago. It has been alleged by a former male nurse that the elderly man suffered a beating hours before he died.


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His death certificate listed three contributory causes – broncho pneumonia, cerebro vascular occident and arterior sclerotic dementure. The man, who was found dead in his bed by a senior nurse, had no known relatives and was cremated.

The original inquiry failed to uncover any evidence relating to allegations about events leading up to the man's death. This was held in 1982 and was undertaken following similar claims suggesting the patient had severe bruising on his body before he died.

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Bert Baker, of Larkfield, near Maidstone in Kent, who spent six years at the hospital, has continued to call for further investigations into the death.

Mr Baker gave details to Suffolk Health Authority two years ago about a wider issue that there was a regular abuse of men and women patients. The authority found "no evidence at all" of any wrong-doing.

Detectives at Suffolk police have spent many months researching the death of the mentally-ill patient and their task has been complicated by the destruction of the original file of evidence given to the director of public prosecution 20 years ago.

The Crown Prosecution Service has said it was not surprising an old file had been disposed of if it had consisted of insufficient evidence.

Now officers are preparing to give a report on their findings to the coroner. He could hold an inquest if necessary.

A spokesman for Suffolk police said: "Suffolk police continues to look at this allegation and is in the process of preparing a report which will be submitted to the coroner in due course."

St Audry's, first used as a workhouse in 1767, later catered for up to 1,100 patients at a time served by 280 staff before it closed in 1993. The site has been turned into an upmarket housing development.

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