Tragic mother was failed by the health service, family and friends say

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Family and friends of a depressed mother-of-two who committed suicide in public say she would still be alive if it wasn’t for failings within the health service.

Vanessa Lucas-Heathorn died after setting herself on fire on a patch of public land in Mansfield Woodhouse last year.

It was well documented that the 44-year-old had major mental health problems, and had attempted suicide on several occasions before.

Despite this, Nottinghamshire NHS Health Trust had failed to find her a bed in a mental health unit in the days leading up to her death.

Following a three-day inquest at Nottinghamshire Coroner’s Court, assistant coroner Maria Mulrennan today gave a verdict of suicide.

Former husband of Ms Lucas-Heathorn and father to her two boys, Tim Heathorn, 40, represented her family during the hearing.

He said: “I do not know what we were hoping for, just some form of acknowledgement that there was a failure in the system.

“It seems every time she wanted help, she was passed along, nobody stepped in to say ‘let’s do something’.

“A decision needed to be made for her.”

Vanessa’s long-time friend, Lisa Haydon-Bennett, 44, added: “She would still be here if she got the help she needed, she would have been a poorly person, but she should never had been left in the care of elderly parents.

“The whole thing has been horrendous and they are struggling to deal with it.

“It was so horrific how she ended her life, it showed such desperation.”

Vanessa Lucas-Heathorn died on June 25 last year in hospital after dousing herself in white spirit on land at Stow Court in Mansfield Woodhouse.

Passers-by sprayed her with water and called for an ambulance.

Still conscious, Ms Lucas-Heathorn told ambulance crews that she had done it to herself.

A receipt was later found that showed she had bought the white spirit from a hardware store.

However, she had only been released from custody after torching her Valley View home in Mansfield in a bid to kill herself.

She was arrested and charged with arson and appeared in court, where she was given bail despite concerns by health officials and police about her state of mind.

She candidly told them that she had attempted suicide several times before.

A mental health crisis team visited her at her parents’ home shortly after to say they were looking for a bed at a unit, but could not find one.

Ms Mulrennan said she was “satisfied beyond reasonable doubt” that Ms Lucas-Heathorn had intended to end her life.

The NHS trust had given extensive evidence during the inquest and said steps had been taken to ensure no other vulnerable patients would be at risk, which was welcomed by Ms Mulrennan.

She added: “I have to say it’s credit to the health care trust have identified a number of problems learned from Vanessa’s tragic case.”

This includes a more centralised way of managing beds to cope more effectively with supply and demand, increased staffing levels and greater support from psychiatric experts.

“I will leave my trust with the hospital trust and hope that the action plan will continue to be implemented,” she concluded.

Lisa Haydon-Bennett later said family and friends would also be keeping a close eye on the changes.

She said: “We will have a meeting with the health care trust and ask them to update us at regular intervals.”