Belfast Telegraph

Tragic teen had a history of solvent abuse, says carer

By John Mulgrew

A 15-year-old girl who died after inhaling gas from an aerosol while in care had a history of solvent abuse, an inquest heard yesterday.

Darlene Bell died on June 7 last year at Glenford Park close to Ards Leisure centre in Newtownards only minutes after leaving the Ashgrove care home she had been living at since July 2009.

Despite being caught sniffing aerosols on at least three separate occasions, staff at the facility did not deem her at specific risk of using solvents.

Addressing the court, senior care worker Maeve Duffin said: "Darlene had abused solvents in the past - that was not a current risk ... there was nothing to suggest that was going to happen."

During an inquest yesterday the court heard how Ms Bell left the care home with a friend without permission shortly after midnight before walking a short distance to the Hardford Link petrol station.

Darlene and her friend stole two aerosols from the garage and went to the playground to inhale the gas using bags.

In a statement from a paramedic who attended the scene, Ms Bell was found foaming at the mouth with her friend who was "hysterical".

The crew performed CPR before rushing her to the Ulster Hospital. She was pronounced dead at 1.38am.

A report from the state pathologist said Ms Bell had died as a "case of butane poisoning".

A former GP said he had seen "sporadic and occasional use" of solvents by Ms Bell who had been sniffing aerosols since she was 12.

However, according to Mr Roger Bailey, a clinical psychologist, Ms Bell was "not a risk to drugs, alcohol or solvents" and said her use of solvents was "not a significant or ongoing feature".

Coroner Joanne Donnelly will announce her findings this Monday.

Background

Darlene Michelle Bell died while in the care of the Ashgrove facility in Newtownards, Co Down, on June 7, 2010. She had been at the care home since July 2009 and had, according to her clinical psychologist, previously suffered emotional and possible sexual abuse. Ms Bell died after inhaling gas from an aerosol can and had "a history" of solvent abuse.

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