Ben Stamp inquest: Talented scientist, 25, died after being hit by a van on the A19 in Yorkshire

A gifted young scientist died after being hit by a van on the A19 near York while suffering a mental health episode, an inquest has heard.

Benoni Joel Stamp, known as Ben, 25, was on a PhD programme attached to the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Virus Research when he decided to return to his father and stepmother’s home in the village of Escrick in July 2020.

He told his family he was suffering from academic stress, problems with his relationship and was upset over having to suddenly find new accommodation after a bedbug infestation in his flat.

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He became extremely agitated, distressed and erratic while at the family home, the inquest at North Yorkshire Coroner’s Court was told.

Ben StampBen Stamp
Ben Stamp

His stepmother became concerned when he returned to the house with an injured hand that she believed was broken, and she was worried that he had been hit by a vehicle although he told her he had fallen over.

It later transpired that he had hidden in bushes alongside a nearby road and had run out and collided with a car being driven by a couple on their way to buy a morning newspaper just before 8am on the day he died. The driver saw him running away.

Later that day, at around 2pm, he ‘dived’ in front of a van being driven towards York by Robert Vasey near Riccall, and died at the scene. North Yorkshire Police traffic investigators concluded that Mr Vasey had ‘insufficient time’ to avoid hitting Ben. No alcohol or drugs were found in his system at a postmortem.

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Evidence was heard from NHS mental health services who had become involved in Ben’s care in York after his parents contacted them with their concerns.

He was taken to Foss Park Hospital for an assessment that lasted around 90 minutes, but ‘did not communicate or contribute’ and the doctor did not feel able to form any conclusions.

A further assessment under the Mental Health Act then took place at the family home, lasting around two hours on the night before Ben’s death. The doctor concluded that he ‘had capacity’ and did not meet the criteria required to be detained under the Act. A double dose of his existing medication was recommended despite the Stamps’ concerns that it was not effective, but the doctor was unable to prescribe further drugs as he did not carry a prescription pad. The case was passed to the Tees Esk and Wear Valley Trust’s mental health crisis team, who were expected to drop new medication off at the house.

The next day, the crisis team discussed Ben’s care and a nurse was preparing to visit him and deliver the drugs at around 2pm. At 1.30pm, she received a call informing her that he had left the house.

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Several calls between Mrs Stamp and the crisis team took place during the morning and early part of the afternoon.

In his concluding remarks, assistant coroner for North Yorkshire Jonathan Leach said that a ‘miscommunication arose’ as the Stamps were expecting the medication to be delivered sooner, and that Ben’s case should have been discussed at an 8.30am meeting and a nurse allocated. The trust accepted there was ‘an opportunity for a doctor to speak to Ben missed’ during the calls between the team and his stepmother before he left the house.

He added that he was not satisfied that Ben intended to take his own life and rejected verdicts of suicide or misadventure, but did not agree with the family submission that the trust had contributed to his death through inaction.

"It was reasonable that they did not escalate Ben’s care at 10am, taking into account the information available at the time. I am not satisfied the outcome would have been any different, and there were other patients who needed to be seen that morning. Ben might have refused to take the medication, or it may not have taken effect by the time he left the house. Despite the best efforts of his parents to keep him safe, Ben left the house without their knowledge.”

A narrative conclusion was recorded.

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Ben’s father Ronald Stamp, a retired chemical scientist, told the inquest that his son was ‘gentle, bright, intelligent, considerate and kind’ and that he was close to his family.

At the University of Glasgow, he enjoyed an ‘active social life’ and was a member of the skydiving and squash clubs. Paying tribute, Glasgow University Sports Association said: “Ben was a fantastic captain for our skydiving club, he worked closely with GUSA and our University of Glasgow sport team, as well as Strathclyde Uni’s skydiving club, ensuring the club ran with enthusiasm and heart. Ben was also a popular figure in squash club for many years, representing the university in local leagues, BUCS, coaching sessions and he volunteered his time to aid the GU-squash social outreach programme.

“Ben would always make the effort to chat and help promote both clubs and was a welcoming face to anyone who came along to try the sports. Anyone who knew him, knew that above all else, he was a truly kind and caring individual, who was a beloved friend to many of us.”

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