Belfast Telegraph

Charity calls for inquiry into hospital care of mentally ill man who killed Portadown pensioners

By Allan Preston

A charity helping the family of an elderly Portadown couple killed by a mentally ill man has called for a fully independent investigation of his hospital care.

Mike and Marjorie Cawdery, both 83, were killed by paranoid schizophrenic Thomas McEntee (41) at their home in May 2017.

He had been in hospitals four times in the days leading up to the attack, with the family blaming the Southern Health Trust for missing crucial opportunities to prevent the deaths.

Documentary filmmaker Julian Hendy (60) is director of the Hundred Families charity - which supports those affected by mental health homicides - and has been assisting the Cawdery family.

The charity estimates that around 100 people are killed in the UK each year by people with mental health issues.

Mr Hendy's father Philip was killed in Bristol in 2007 by a psychotic man known to local health services.

"After my dad died I found it quite difficult to find out what happened," he said.

"I couldn't find out any information about the offender at all and it seemed the health trust in our area were more concerned about the offender's patient confidentiality than supporting victims.

"I thought: 'That's not justice when the offender decides how much information the victim gets'."

The charity works with NHS bodies and collects evidence to make the case for change.

Mr Hendy said he was frustrated that health services across the UK were not learning from these incidents.

"In England they've been doing inquiry reports for 20 years but they all say the same things - that they didn't assess the risk properly, plan the care properly, they didn't listen to family concerns and often didn't treat drug or alcohol problems," he said.

Last week Southern Health Trust chief executive Shane Devlin said no assessment could have predicted what McEntee would do and emergency departments weren't prisons.

But Mr Hendy said: "That's not strictly true. If someone's detained because they're a risk to themselves or other people, then emergency departments are places of detention."

On the morning of the attack on the Cawderys McEntee appeared naked at Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry with cuts on his arm. A decision was made to transfer him to Craigavon Area Hospital.

He walked out and went on to break into the Cawdery family home.

Mr Hendy added: "It's not good enough to say 'we couldn't hold him'. Daisy Hill is supposed to be a place of safety, but he was transferred to Craigavon, and I believe that was handled really poorly.

"This is a seriously ill person, naked and clearly in crisis who then absconds. How can we be sure this won't happen tomorrow."

The Southern Health Trust has already completed a serious adverse incident review into the matter, but has agreed to another comprehensive review after concerns raised by the family.

Mr Hendy said this did not go far enough and has called on the Health and Social Care Board to conduct a fully independent investigation that looks at the issue "root and branch".

Belfast Telegraph

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