A blogger ingested a fatal substance that arrived in the post at a mental health unit in Stockport after she broke free from staff, an inquest has heard.Beth Matthews, 26, then told them, 'I will be dead in an hour', the hearing was told.Beth died after swallowing the substance, which she ordered online, on March 21 last year whilst a patient at The Priory's Cheadle Royal secure psychiatric hospital.
An inquest into her death heard, after opening the package, which she said was protein powder, she poured the substance from the small plastic screw-top container into a cup.
At that point, the hearing was told, two members of staff grabbed hold of her and knocked it to the floor, to prevent her drinking from it.The inquest heard, as one pressed their alarm to call for help Beth 'came out of the restraint' and put the container in her mouth, before running to her bathroom and drinking from a tap in order to swallow the substance.
The two members of staff, who were with Beth, gave evidence at the two-week inquest, being heard before a jury at South Manchester Coroner's Court in Stockport. The handover document completed by staff, from night to day shift on Tuesday, March 21 said: "Staff must open parcels for EM. Risk of secreting items from parcels".
With the instruction she shouldn't be allowed to open her own mail also documented in her care plan.However, Healthcare Assistant Olivia Woodruff, the designated 'security' who was responsible for distributing patients' mail that day, said she didn't see the handover document and that 'nothing was mentioned' verbally in the handover meeting."I had never opened parcels with Beth so I didn't know the correct procedure for her," she said.
She said she asked ward manager Jonathan Heathcote, who told her 'it was okay for Beth to open parcels as long as we were at arm's length, which we were.'The jury was told Beth, who at that time was on one-to-one observations, went to the nurses' office on the ward to ask for her mail.
At around 1:10pm she was accompanied to the 'Quiet Lounge' – where she sat on a sofa with Ms Woodruff and her colleague, fellow Healthcare Assistant Megan Tiplady, sitting on chairs either side of her.Beth had eight parcels to open and Ms Woodruff said as she sat opening them her 'leg was bouncing' and that it appeared 'to be an anxious thing'.She opened three, containing a hoodie, e-cigarette coils, both of which were confiscated, and a card containing a homemade badge before opening the package containing the poisonous substance.The staff said they asked what it was inside it and she said it was 'protein powder as she wanted to try it' the inquest was told.
Jurors, legal representatives and Beth's father Christopher Matthews, who was in court were shown the plastic, screw-top container through a sealed see-through bag.The Healthcare Assistants said they couldn't see the label on it as it was facing into Beth's hand and she didn't respond to further questions about what it was, as she unscrewed the lid, pierced the film, and 'started pouring the contents into a cup.'It was at this point, they said, they stood up and began to restrain her to prevent her from drinking it. After they grabbed hold of her, Megan Tiplady said Beth was 'adamant she wasn't letting go.'"We tackled her with the cup all the way to the door of the quiet lounge," she said.
"I didn't want to let go and neither did Olivia. But we needed to press the alarm, as we were struggling to stop her from drinking what was in the cup and we needed more assistance.""Beth was too strong. There was still the tub in the room. Olivia said to me 'are you going to press your alarm?' We were scared to let go." She said as she pressed her alarm, Beth 'managed to come out of the restraint, grabbed the tub and put it in her mouth.'Ms Tiplady said Beth then 'rushed out of the room' and that she tried to grab her but at this point, there were no other staff around to restrain her, so she let go and followed her.She said when she got to Beth's room she was 'using water from the tap to swallow what was in her mouth.'As she left her room, Ms Tiplady said: "I tried to speak to her but she didn't want to respond. She looked angry. She walked back into her room and firmaly stated, 'I will be dead in an hour.'"Ms Woodruff said she took the bottle to the nurses' office. 'We had to Google it as no one was sure what the substance was" she said. Adding: "I had never heard of it."Once the nature of the substance became clear, the ward manager rang an ambulance.
Beth was put onto two-to-one observations but quickly became seriously unwell and said she was struggling to breathe.After the arrival of paramedics, she was taken to Wythenshawe Hospital but resuscitation attempts were not successful and her death was declared at 3:55pm.The inquest was told staff who were on duty that day were offered counselling following the incident. Whilst The Priory carried out a Serious Untoward Incident Investigation.
Beth, from the village of Menheniot near Liskeard in Cornwall, who had a diagnosis of Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD), acquired a large social media following after blogging about her experience following a 'failed suicide attempt' in 2019.She had been sectioned under the mental health act and transferred to the Fern Unit at The Priory for 'specialist therapy' the previous November.
A mental health nurse on the unit who Beth told just weeks before her death that 'there are things you can purchase to do the job' told the inquest she was unsure at the time 'whether she had or she was just thinking it.'Leanne Williamson said: "She was always thinking of ending her life. A lot of our conversations were about death or dying. So I didn't feel overly shocked. I felt she would be safe, because of the plans that were in place."The hearing is set to conclude next week.
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