An inquest has begun into the 2015 death of mental health patient Nicky Stevens.
The body of the 21-year-old was found in the Waikato River three years ago, after he was allowed to walk out of a secure unit unsupervised, apparently to go for a cigarette.
Today’s opening day of the inquest in the Hamilton High Court included his mother, Jane Stevens, saying how her son had a history of attempted suicide and she believes he was let down by those supposed to be looking after him.
His mother described to the coroner how schizophrenia had overtaken her son’s life in his late teens and he believed he was possessed.
Stevens was last seen alive on March 9, 2015, caught on CCTV after leaving the Henry Bennett centre’s medium security wing. He was admitted to the facility in February.
Just days before he died Nicky told his mother he wanted to end his life.
“Our son Nicky suffered from a serious mental illness but it shouldn’t have been a death sentence,” Jane Stevens said. “He was very open with me about his intent to kill himself just as he had been open about his attempt the previous week.”
Two nights before he disappeared, Jane Stevens described how at a birthday dinner for his dad, Nicky’s behaviour deteriorated further. But despite her concerns, Jane says hospital staff still allowed Nicky to take unsupervised cigarette breaks.
It took hospital staff an hour to realise he was missing.
The coroner heard over three hours after Nicky walked off, only one staff member had searched beyond the perimeter fence. It would be 48 hours before police began their search.
A day later his body was found in the river.
Jane Stevens says the Waikato District Health Board failed her son. The inquest is expected to end on Friday.
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