Belfast Telegraph

Uncertainty halts probe into girl's death in care

By John Mulgrew

An inquest into the death of a 15-year-old girl who died after inhaling butane gas from an aerosol while in care has been adjourned due to a "lack of clarification" over an investigation carried out after her death.

Coroner Joanne Donnelly told the court yesterday there were "still matters outstanding" and "clarification" needed to determine what level of investigation both the Belfast and South Eastern health trusts carried out following the death of Darlene Bell.

The inquest began last Wednesday into the death of Ms Bell who died in June 2010 after inhaling fumes from a deodorant can in a playground in Newtownards close to the Ashgrove care home she had been a resident at.

A report from the state pathologist read out in court last week said she had died as a result of "butane poisoning".

Last week the coroner quizzed social worker witnesses at the Belfast inquest about why the disturbed adolescent, who suffered a litany of abuse in her early years, was able to leave the home.

Ms Donnelly said yesterday "it appears to date there has not been any review" into the death of Ms Bell.

After quizzing a representative from both health trusts she said "clarification into exactly what kind of review had taken place" was needed and was adjourning until she received an adequate response from the trust representative, Mr Dunlop.

Following a seven-page report written by Tony Rodgers, chair of the Regional Child Protection Committee, a case management review was ruled out by the health authorities and there is uncertainty over whether an adverse incident report was subsequently drawn up.

In addition one witness, Roger Bailey, a clinical psychologist who had given evidence last week, contacted the court last Friday with a further two-page statement.

A new date for the continuation of the inquest has yet to be set.

Background

Darlene Michelle Bell died while in the care of the Ashgrove facility in Newtownards, Co Down, in the early hours of June 7, 2010.

It was determined she had died as a result of butane poisoning.

During an inquest last week social workers and a clinical psychologist said Ms Bell had "a history" of solvent abuse. Coroner Joanne Donnelly was due to give her findings yesterday morning but adjourned until further clarification over the level of investigation carried out could be given.

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