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OAPs body found on hospital roof

PUBLISHED: 05:45 11 February 2003 | UPDATED: 16:17 24 February 2010

HEALTH bosses have promised a full investigation will take place after the body of a "confused" pensioner who wandered away from his ward was found on a hospital rooftop.

HEALTH bosses have promised a full investigation will take place after the body of a "confused" pensioner who wandered away from his ward was found on a hospital rooftop.

The body of Thomas Pilfold , 76, was discovered at around 9.30am yesterday by a builder working on the roof at the West Suffolk Hospital, in Bury St Edmunds.

Staff at the hospital yesterday insisted the roof where retired engineer Mr Pilfold was found had been searched twice during the course of the weekend after the patient disappeared from his ward at 5pm on Saturday .

Bosses added access to the roof had been secure, describing the incident as "regrettable".

John Parkes, hospital chief executive, said: "Despite extensive searches of the West Suffolk Hospital and surrounding grounds on Saturday and Sunday, members of staff were not able to find Mr Pilfold and we are greatly saddened by his death.

"Over 50 people were involved in the searches that included the use of helicopters using infra-red equipment.

"The hospital search included public and restricted areas such as plant rooms and roofs. Unfortunately, the hospital's main roof, which contains a number of structures and obstacles, despite having been searched twice, is where Mr Pilfold was found.

"This is a very regrettable, unforeseen event, and we will be reviewing what happened to see if there are any lessons that can be learnt.

"The Hospital Trust will co-operate fully with the police and the coroner to try and establish the circumstances surrounding the cause of his death."

Mr Pilfold, from Fryth Close in Haverhill, was being treated for dehydration, and disappeared from his ward wearing only green pyjamas and grey bedroom slippers. It is believed he thought he was an electrician, and climbed onto the roof to mend a heating vent.

A search involving police officers, the force helicopter and around 35 volunteers from the Suffolk Lowland Search and Rescue team was immediately launched.

"We were called out at about 8pm on Saturday, and searched overnight into Sunday," said Kevin Waterson, founder of the Suffolk Search and Rescue team. "We started looking again at 9am, and worked throughout the day and night.

"I went and saw Mr Pilfold's family with a police officer, and was convinced he was still in the hospital grounds, so we concentrated our search there.

"We also looked in gardens, made house-to-house inquiries along Hardwick Lane, and used dogs to comb the heath. It is a tragic case."

A post mortem and inquest into Mr Pilfold's death is to be held. Police are not treating the death as suspicious.

Last year, an inquest heard how a patient at the hospital went undiscovered for three days after hanging herself.

Rosamund Dunham, 23, disappeared from a psychiatric ward and could not be found. She was discharged from the hospital's care in her absence, but her body was discovered three days later hanging in a service shaft next to a bathroom.


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