Woman suffocated by fellow patient at Bradford hospital

The Cygnet Hospital, Bierley, Bradford. Picture: Ross Parry Agency
The Cygnet Hospital, Bierley, Bradford. Picture: Ross Parry Agency
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THE husband of a Halifax woman who died at secure psychiatric unit in Bradford has said his wife and her killer were both “let down”.

In a moving victim impact statement Stewart Goswell said he hoped that changes had now been made at the privately-run Cygnet Hospital in Bierley where his 52-year-old wife Linda was “suffocated” in her room by fellow patient Rachel Bowen in August last year.

Prosecutor Simon Phillips this morning read from Mr Goswell’s statement in which he said he thought his wife, who had suffered from mental illness for many years, would be safe in hospital.

“It is clear that Linda has been let down, also I feel that Rachel Bowen has been let down,” said Mr Goswell.

“I hope that changes have been made at the Cygnet Hospital to make it a safe place for our loved ones to be. I hope that Rachel Bowen receives the help and support she needs, however she must never be in a position to harm anyone as I do not want another family to go through what I have been through. I miss my Linda.”

Bowen, who will be 50 tomorrow, was charged with murder following the discovery of Mrs Goswell’s body at the hospital, but today her guilty plea to a charge of manslaughter was accepted by the prosecution.

After details of her severe psychiatric condition were outlined to Bradford Crown Court the Recorder of Bradford Judge Roger Thomas QC told Bowen, via a video link to Rampton Hospital, that she would be made the subject of a hospital order und the Mental Health Act without limit of time.

Bowen, who almost died after jumping from the roof of a hospital in Bristol in 2012, was transferred to the Cygnet unit in July 2014 after she stabbed a friend in the neck with a screwdriver while they were both in a car.

Because there were no suitable beds in her home area of Bath she was admitted to the Bradford hospital where both her and Mrs Goswell were supposed to be observed by nursing staff every 15 minutes.

The court heard that on the night of her death Mrs Goswell, who had five brothers and three sisters, had been in an agitated state and had been into Bowen’s room which was not permitted.

During the early hours CCTV footage showed Bowen going into Mrs Goswell’s room and she remained there for more than 40 minutes before going back to her own room.

Mr Phillips said during a check a nursing assistant failed to see that Bowen was in Mrs Goswell’s room and it was more than 90 minutes before the emergency alarm was raised by a mental health nurse.

Initially the incident was treated as a “sudden death”, but the police were informed that Bowen had told a member of staff:”I think I did something bad last night...I killed that lady.

“I strangled her with my hands I think...I think between 4 and 5 in the morning, but I can’t remember.”

As she was being put into a police vehicle she asked:”Have you got the cushion?”

In police interviews Bowen, who had no previous convictions, said she could not remember strangling anyone or going into Mrs Goswell’s room, but Mr Phillips said in a recent discussion with a psychiatrist the defendant had said:”When I went to her room I knew if I didn’t kill her I’d be killed myself and tortured.”

Mr Phillips said the CCTV footage showed that the 15-minute checks on Bowen and Mrs Goswell were not made that night and the system failed to alert staff members to Mrs Goswell’s condition at any time between 3.18am and 5am.

He revealed that following the death of Mrs Goswell charge nurse Kudakwashe Masvodza was dismissed by Cygnet Hospital for gross misconduct at the conclusion of disciplinary hearings.

The nurse claimed that he had checked on Mrs Goswell at 4.45am and had the check in her notes, but Mr Phillips said the CCTV footage showed that was incorrect.

A colleague later said that nurse Masvodza “seemed to panic” when told about Mrs Goswell’s unresponsive condition at 5am.

Mr Phillips said the Nursing and Midwifery Council is conducting an investigation into the actions and behaviour of nurse Masvodza.

The court heard that Cygnet Hospital had changed its working practices since the tragic death and NHS England are now leading a multi-agency Mental Health Homicide Serious Case Review and Serious Incidebt Review.

Those reviews are expected to report in the spring/summer of 2016.

The court heard that Bowen, who was described as previously being a high-achieving and talented young woman, had not received any psychological or psychiatric support when she left hospital after jumping from the roof in 2012.

Her barrister Shaun Smith QC said the signals were “massive” that she was was suffering from a severe mental illness at that time.

Judge Thomas said with hindsight it was clear that Bowen’s mental illness was “acute” in 2012 and added:”It looks like t was your physical injuries that were the main cause of medical concern and the extent and nature of your mental illness was then not really appreciated.”

The judge said the high level of supervision demanded at the Cygnet Hospital should have prevented Bowen from being in Mrs Goswell’s room for the length of time she was and added:”It would be during that lengthy period of time that unhappily in the paranoid, deluded state that you were in you killed Linda Goswell by suffocating her.”

The judge said the hospital order without limit of time would provide help and support for Bowen in Rampton secure unit and it would also be proper and full protection for the public.

After the hearing a spokesman for Cygnet Hospital said in a statement:”Following today’s outcome we will continue to work closely with NHS England and all relevant authorities to investigate the issues relating to this tragic incident.

“As a full report is pending it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”