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Fight for fresh inquest into 'suicide' of mental health patient in Rotherham who had abortion following sex with nurse

  • Sam Casey reports

The family of a woman who was hit by a train in Rotherham 28 years ago are campaigning for a fresh inquest into her death – after they discovered she had an abortion following a sexual relationship with a member of staff in a psychiatric hospital.

Alison Bell, who spent the last years of her life in Doncaster, died in 1991 at the age of 25.

But it was another ten years before her brother and sister found out that she had been involved with a trainee nurse while being treated for paranoid schizophrenia at the Garlands Hospital in Carlisle.

She became pregnant but had an abortion.

An early photograph of Alison Bell, second from left, with her family Credit: Family photograph

Two years ago the Crown Prosecution Service told the family there would be a "realistic prospect of conviction" if the former nurse – who was later sacked – was prosecuted for having sex with a patient on hospital grounds.

But the CPS decided it was "not in the public interest" to pursue the matter.

However, her siblings believe Alison's mental health may have been affected by what happened while she was in hospital.

They now want those details, which were not known when her original inquest concluded with an open verdict, heard in public for the first time and are crowd funding to raise money for a new inquest.

Alison's sister Sarah Daniel, from York, said: "It would bring into the light all those things that have been hidden and it would actually, we hope, make sure that this doesn't happen to anybody else."

Alison's sister Sarah Daniel is fundraising for a new inquest Credit: Yorkshire Television

Alison's sister Sarah Daniel, from York, said: "It would bring into the light all those things that have been hidden and it would actually, we hope, make sure that this doesn't happen to anybody else."

Alison was 21 when she was admitted to the Garlands Hospital in 1987. The following year, without her family's knowledge, she became pregnant and had a termination.

She left the hospital and moved in with her mother in Doncaster.

Mrs Daniel said she never opened up about what happened.

"I remember her holding me on the sofa and just rocking and crying her heart out and I said 'what's wrong?', and she said 'I can't tell you, I can't tell you'," she said.

Alison died on December 13, 1991, and was buried on Christmas Eve.

When her original inquest was held, details about the relationship were not considered.

It was not until 2001 that Sarah and her brother Tom found out about Alison's experience.

They discovered that the relationship had been widely known about among hospital staff. The now-defunct North Cumbria Mental Health Trust gave them an "unreserved apology" for the nurse's behaviour and for the "totally inadequate management supervision" that had allowed it to continue.

An initial police inquiry concluded there was not enough evidence to charge the former.

But that inquiry was later found to be "flawed" and a second investigation led to the Crown Prosecution Service considering a charge of unlawful sex with a patient on hospital grounds – an offence which carried a maximum two-year prison sentence.

However, the CPS concluded it was not in the public interest to prosecute.

A spokesman said: "The evidence showed that while the sexual activity was unlawful, the relationship was genuine and consensual. Furthermore, there was no evidence to suggest the suspect had any sinister intent or that he singled out Alison due to her vulnerability.

“These factors were likely to mean that any sentence would be nominal – so a decision was made not to charge.”

Mrs Daniel said: "It felt like we'd just got to the end of the road."

But she and her brother have now gained the support of the charity Inquest in calling for a new inquest.

Deborah Coles, of Inquest, said: "This death raises very important questions raises very important questions about safeguarding and exploitation of vulnerable people who are in receipt of mental health services that need to be answered.

Mrs Daniel added: "Even if no-one was to be punished in the penal sense of the word, the truth should be told."