Newlywed killed himself after ‘signs of poor mental health missed in lockdown’
A newlywed killed himself after key signs of worsening mental health were missed during the coronavirus lockdown, an inquest heard.
Craig Murray, 41, previously had face-to-face meetings with experts after suffering a severe bout of paranoia which caused him to fear his friends were “out to kill him” and that his home had been “hacked”.
The father-of-one took three overdoses in five months and confessed to thoughts of taking his own life but when strict Covid restrictions began in March, he could speak to medics only over the phone.
The experts failed to spot signs of his deteriorating condition and wrongly classed him as an “amber zone” patient when he should have been graded in the maximum risk “red zone” category, the inquest heard.
On May 23 this year Mr Murray was found dead at Etherow Country Park, a beauty spot where he had proposed to his wife near his home in Marple, near Stockport, Greater Manchester.
Health officials have since admitted mistakes were made with his treatment.
Mr Murray, who had a 15-year-old son from a previous relationship, had been married for 18 months and worked for the Lookers car dealership in Stockport having previously worked for Mercedes.
His widow Jayde, a business manager for Barclays Bank told the Stockport hearing: “He was an amazing husband and an amazing father and would do anything for anyone. He was happy, hardworking and we had been married for 18 months when he died.
“It has been about a year to the day since he went to work on a Monday morning and was happy and fine, but when he came home, he was a completely different person.
“He was stressed, upset and said he wanted to go and live in the USA with a friend. Within the space of seven hours of him having gone to work there was a drastic change in him.
“In the run up to that Monday he had been stressed at work as there are targets to meet and started to have thoughts in his head that his friends wanted to kill him and he wanted to take us to the USA to escape.
“He said he thought he was in danger and the house CCTV, WiFi and phone had been hacked. I took him to the doctors that week and there he tried to say his friends were after him.”
The inquest heard how Mr Murray began seeking medical help in January over fears people were out to harm him.
Jayde continued: “He had an appointment at hospital in January where he further explained his thoughts saying he believed people wanted to kill him.
“He was told he would receive a follow up appointment but the following February he would lock the bedroom door at night and would wake up in the night thinking there were people outside and following him.
“He decided to separate from me saying he thought I was going to be killed as well, and that if I moved away from him I would be safe. The week before he moved out he took an overdose then he moved in with his mum before lockdown happened.
“One of the last times I rang him he said he thought the phone was bugged. He was so upset and I pleaded with him not to do anything stupid. He said he wouldn’t. He would say that because he didn’t want to worry us.”
Mr Murray’s father Peter said: “He had two home visits from the mental health team and then coronavirus hit, so telephone counselling started.
“Although I understand the reasons for that, I don’t think there is any substitute for one-to-one meetings because body language can be picked up.
“I think if he had had one-to-one sessions it would have been even more apparent, he was not of sound mind. I rang a private counselling service and asked if anyone could give him one-to-one support but they said that would not be possible.
“I think an exception could have been made where he could have been seen by somebody rather than speaking to them on the phone.
“Craig is not coming back, but if it could save one more life, face-to-face support is paramount. It is all in the eyes and the demeanour.
“If the experts had seen him pacing around they may have understood more about him. I just think it is a better way of making a judgment.”
The hearing was told Mr Murray took overdoses of prescribed medication in January, February and April this year.
Healthcare professional Jacqueline Boyd of the Stockport community mental health team said: “At an assessment Craig’s wife said he would lock himself in the bathroom and refuse to speak to her around the house, instead communicating through notes. He thought someone was tapping the windows and his activities were restricted as he was scared of going out.
“He said he was a positive, upbeat person but had been suffering from low mood and anxiety – although he said he did not harbour thoughts of suicide.
“On May 18 he spoke to his support worker and and said he was feeling suicidal but was able to distract himself by doing things for his mum. He said he had thought about how he would kill himself later that week but didn’t know how he would do it.
“The next day a zoning meeting took place and it was decided he would remain in the amber zone. He had not actively made plans to kill himself. In my opinion he should have moved into the red zone.”
Mental Health Access Team manager Heather McClenaghan, who prepared a report into his death, added: “The zoning decision appears to have been a mistake, and he could have done with more face-to-face contact.
“His support worker was new to working in the community, having worked with in-patients for many, many years.
“Normally there is a robust induction, but the pandemic had a huge impact. Normally a new worker would buddy up with an experienced worker and they would be shown the ropes together, but that did not happen in her case.”
Clinical psychiatrist Dr Bindu Maniyath who treated Mr Murray said: “On May 11, I spoke to him on the phone and he told me he was feeling better. He said had always been ‘on the go’ as a person and was busy as a car salesman but told me he had thought about suicide twice the previous Thursday.
“I increased his anti-depressant medication dose and referred him for a follow-up appointment with the community mental health team. I didn’t think he needed admitting to hospital at that time.”
Recording a conclusion of suicide, South Manchester assistant coroner Christopher Briggs told the Stockport hearing: “Craig was a happy and much-loved father and husband, but he did have some mental health issues.
“On three occasions he took an overdose of medication he was being prescribed and in May he was articulating suicidal thoughts but had no clear plan to take his own life. He reported these thoughts over the phone to his support worker and a zoning meeting took place but no further action was taken and his risk was not deemed to have changed.
”Evidence shows that decision should not have been made and moving him to the red zone would have led to a face-to-face meeting that day or shortly after. It is not possible to say what the outcome would have been had that happened but that was a missed opportunity.”
No Prevention of Future Deaths report was ordered by the coroner.