Tragic mum gets backing of coroner

Sheila Rothwell

Sheila Rothwell

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A MOTHER who “begged and pleaded” for her son to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act has been supported by Blackpool’s coroner.

Sheila Rothwell had urged doctors from the Parkwood Unit at Victoria Hospital to detain her troubled son Ian Foster.

Mr Foster, 28, from Lytham, died in 2006 after he set himself on fire on Blackpool’s North Pier.

He had suffered from mental health problems and, although he was receiving care from Parkwood, he was doing so voluntarily and was allowed out of the unit whenever he wanted.

Blackpool Coroner Anne Hind supported Mrs Rothwell.

She said: “What Mrs Rothwell felt in her own mind was something catastrophic would occur if he was not detained, and something catastrophic did happen. The fears of Mrs Rothwell were correct and the professionals were quite simply wrong.”

Speaking after the inquest into her son’s death, Mrs Rothwell, 62, from Poulton, said: “I still think he should have been sectioned.

“They could have made a mistake, but that mistake would have been in Ian’s favour and he wouldn’t have ended up burnt alive.

“I didn’t feel I was listened to.”

Mr Foster, a father-of-one, was first admitted to Parkwood in 2000 after threatening to jump off a bridge. He was discharged a year later after making good progress.

However, he took drugs and gambled, causing the relationship with the mother of his child to break up.

In the years which followed his release from Parkwood, Mr Foster tried to take his own life several times.

On one occasion he told police he had a bomb strapped to his body. It is believed he wanted armed officers to shoot him.

It was one of many suspected suicide attempts which included trying to stow away on a plane, hang himself and deliberately crash a car.

In the days before he set fire to himself his mother spoke to a nurse at Parkwood for four hours to voice her concerns. But Mr Foster was not detained.

It was questioned if his taking of the hallucinogenic drug LSD - two days before his final suicide attempt - altered his state of mind.

Dr Jeff Roberts, a mental health specialist, who has previously advised the Government on mental health issues, commented on the evidence given by the professionals who assessed Mr Foster in 2006.

Dr Roberts said even if Mr Foster was detained, he could still have left Parkwood as the ward was not locked.

He said: “I did not see what more could have been done.

“These people expressed clinical practice and they acted within the law.”

Mrs Hind recorded a narrative verdict and cited “deliberate ignition” as a contributing factor to the death of Mr Foster.