Belfast Telegraph

Vulnerable teen Louise Gibson went missing nine times from care home before death

By Cate McCurry

A teenager who died in the care of the Western Trust had gone missing nine times in the weeks leading up to her death, an inquest has heard.

Louise Gibson was 16 when her lifeless body was discovered after she took an overdose of a notorious illegal party drug.

The vulnerable teenager had been a resident at the Woodlands children's home in Omagh when she went missing on May 30, 2013.

She had been estranged from her family for most of her life after being the subject of a care order since she was aged two.

The teen died after taking an overdose of PMA (para-mephoxyamphetamine), a party drug similar to ecstasy.

In the second day of her inquest the court heard how staff at the home had been making contact with Louise throughout the day after she left to go into Omagh town centre.

But, unbeknown to staff, Louise made an unapproved visit to see her mother Heather, who was in her partner's home in Strule Park.

Orla Connolly, a residential social worker, told the court that as part of Louise's risk management she would have to tell staff where she was and who she was with.

She described Louise as "pleasant and excited" about seeing her granny during one of their many phone calls.

Susan McDermott also spoke to the teen at around 5pm that day and had arranged to meet up with her, but she failed to appear.

The last time staff spoke to Louise was shortly after 10pm when she told them she was drunk and lost but that she would try and meet them again. She was reported missing to police at 11pm.

Under the care home's regulations, staff made contact with her mother and granny but neither answered their phone.

Staff members admitted during the hearing that they did not consider Heather's partner's address, despite being aware that it was an approved home where Louise and her mother used to meet. They told the hearing that they were not aware Louise had been at that address for at least six months following a fall-out with her mother.

The inquest heard that the children's home uses a colour code system of green, amber and red when a resident is missing. Louise remained 'amber' during the entire time she was missing.

Coroner Brian Sherrard queried why amber was used when she had a history of absconding, a difficult relationship with her family, alcohol abuse and mental health problems. But a care worker said there was no evidence of an immediate risk to her.

The inquest also heard that she had gone missing nine times in the two months before her death.

The inquest continues.

Belfast Telegraph


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