Sister’s four-year wait for answers over brother’s death


The sister of a disabled man who died in what she believes were suspicious circumstances more than four years ago says her family are still waiting for answers about his death from their local council.

Andrew Taylor who had Down’s syndrome, was found dead in his locked bedroom next to an empty bottle of whisky.

Toxicology tests later found he had massive amounts of the anti-epilepsy drug Carbamazepine in his blood, equivalent to about 20 tablets.

His sister, Elizabeth Brookes, has been seeking answers about her brother’s death since he died at his home in Maidenhead in August 2007.

She believes that neither the police investigation, the subsequent inquest, nor the council’s own investigations were thorough enough. All concluded there were no suspicious circumstances.

But Brookes insists that her brother was not capable of quickly taking 20 tablets from their packet one after another because he had such poor motor skills, and that he would never have bought a bottle of whisky and drunk it without encouragement from another person.

The drugs were supposed to be kept in a locked cupboard by support staff, who visited his home three times a day at mealtimes. Her brother’s keys, which he always kept with him, were not in his locked bedroom when his body was found, she said.

She added: “My brother had short stubby fingers and struggled to do up his buttons, he had poor motor skills in that way and was very slow. His eyesight was also poor and he slowly held things up to his eyes to see what was what.”

Even if he did have access to so many tablets, she added, he “wouldn’t have had the quick physical movements to pop them out and quickly swallow them, whilst swigging whisky”.

And she said he certainly didn’t understand the concept of suicide, and would have been unable to plan ahead to store so many pills.

Staff told the inquest that they had no idea how he had secured access to the drugs. The coroner recorded an open verdict.

Brookes says Windsor and Maidenhead council’s former head of adult services – shortly before his retirement – promised an in-depth investigation into her brother’s death, after she had complained that the council had failed to examine the circumstances thoroughly enough.

But after he retired, she heard nothing further about the investigation, a failure that she said was “absolutely shocking”.

She said: “I just don’t see how they can protect other people in this borough in their care. What I struggle with is that someone vulnerable has died in this way and absolutely no-one seems bothered by it.”

Gina Small, director of Turnstone Support, which was providing Andrew Taylor’s support at the time of his death, said the company had provided information to the inquest.

She said: “I am very happy if there is any fresh evidence or investigation to co-operate but we have not been alerted to any of that.”

Small, who was not working for Turnstone in 2007, said she could not comment on whether there were any suspicious circumstances surrounding Andrew Taylor’s death but that “certainly that is not what the inquest said”.

She said: “I know it was quite a lengthy inquest and there is nothing in the summary information provided to us that suggests anything suspicious, other than an open verdict.”

A council spokeswoman confirmed that there was an “external” investigation into Andrew Taylor’s death in early 2010.

A council spokeswoman said: “We were not aware that Mr Taylor’s sister had not received a copy of the report and we are arranging for that to be sent direct to her and to invite her in to go through the report findings.”

But she said that neither the inquest, the police investigation, nor a “social care” investigation “uncovered any suspicious circumstances”.

A Thames Valley Police spokeswoman said: “The death of Andrew Taylor in 2007 was investigated thoroughly by Thames Valley Police and subsequently by the coroner who carried out the inquest into his death.

“Following a complaint in 2008 from a family member of the deceased, a senior officer investigated their complaint and reviewed the investigation and reported back to the family. If the family still have concerns we would urge them to contact the force directly.”

23 February 2012

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