Coroner criticises police in suicidal woman case

Witney Gazette: The scene of the incident in a lay-by alongside the A361 near Burford Golf Club and Burford School The scene of the incident in a lay-by alongside the A361 near Burford Golf Club and Burford School

TWO police forces have been criticised over a lack of communication on the night a 71-year-old woman committed suicide by lying under a lorry trailer in Burford.

Thames Valley Police officers who picked up the woman and took her home hours before she died were not told by colleagues she had earlier tried to kill herself under the same lorry trailer that ran her over only hours later.

At an inquest into her death held in Oxford yesterday, Coroner Darren Salter recorded a verdict that Suzanne Cammell took her own life.

Ms Cammell, of The Stables, in Lechlade, Gloucestershire, deliberately lay under a lorry parked in a lay-by on the A361 near the entrance to Burford Golf Club on October 3 last year. She was killed instantly when the lorry drove off at about 7am.

The coroner said he would issue a report to both Thames Valley Police and Gloucestershire Constabulary highlighting their failure to communicate important information to officers dealing with Ms Cammell on the night she died, and their failure to communicate sufficiently with each other.

Ms Cammell’s sister, Josephine Laird, 66, a retired estate agent from Chichester, in Sussex, told the Oxford Mail after the hearing: “I’m very disillusioned with both police forces and the National Health Service.”

The inquest heard that shortly after 1am on October 3, Mustafa Dayan, who owns a kebab van, and two of his colleagues, found Ms Cammell, a single journalist with a long history of depression, lying under the lorry trailer, with her head between the wheels.

“She said that she was okay and that she didn’t need the police,” said Mr Dayan.

Concerned, he called the police and followed her as she walked into Burford.

Shortly afterwards, Thames Valley officers Pc Laura Pagan, Pc Bruce Claridge and Pc Tracy Frazer found Ms Cammell. Pc Frazer took her home while Pc Claridge drove back Ms Cammell’s Jaguar car, that was parked in the lay-by.

At some point between 6am and 7am, she returned in her car, parked and lay under the lorry that would kill her.

Pc Frazer told the court: “I wasn’t concerned in any way for her mental health.”

But she was not told that Ms Cammell had been lying under the lorry trailer, she said.

The court heard a Thames Valley Police controller had written in a log: “She was trying to get under the lorries parked up in the lay-by to get to sleep.”

Thames Valley Police contacted Gloucestershire Constabulary, and a local officer, Sgt Richard Payne, visited Ms Cammell at her home soon after 2.45am for a “welfare check”.

Sgt Payne said he neither knew about the lorry trailer, nor that Ms Cammell had been detained by Gloucestershire officers on September 23, after lying under a recycling truck near her home.

Mr Salter said Sgt Payne should have been told about both incidents, and that the Thames Valley officers should have been notified about the lorry trailer.

The coroner also criticised 2Gether NHS Trust, whose staff had been treating Ms Cammell for depression, for missing an opportunity to gather information after the recycling truck incident.

Mental health nurses had downgraded their assessment of her risk of committing suicide from high to medium-to-high on September 25.
 

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