Rough sleeper Stephen died in Leeds city centre: Parents believe teenage ecstasy use caused mental illness

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THE parents of a 34-year-old man who died while sleeping rough in Leeds city centre have thanked a city charity for the help and support given to their son.

Ray and Pam Watson thanked the Leeds Street Outreach Service after an inquest into their son Stephen’s death was held at Wakefield Coroner’s Court.

The inquest heard Stephen Watson, who had lived on the streets in Leeds for more than four years, was pronounced dead outside the Fairfax House office block on Merrion Street just before 10pm on September 30 2017.

A post mortem conducted by consultant pathologist Dr Lisa Barker found Mr Watson died of a brain haemorrhage due to a ruptured aneurysm caused by heroin and cocaine use.

Area Coroner Jonathan Leach recorded a verdict of drug related death.

A Just Giving online appeal in his memory has so far raised more than £1,200 for the charity Change Grow Live, which runs the outreach service.

After the inquest hearing, Ray Watson, 64, said his son had moved to Leeds from his home on the Wirral in Merseyside in 2013 and preferred living on the streets, despite the outreach team arranging for him to live in a flat on Gargrave Court near Leeds city centre.

Mr Watson said: “He would live on the street because he was never alone on the street, that was his attitude. There was a camaraderie among homeless people.”

Pam Watson, 62, said: “We felt that in Stephen’s case the Leeds Street Outreach Team went out of their way to help. He banged the drum for them, He couldn’t say enough about them.”

Mr Watson said his son was “clever and artistic” as a schoolboy and at the age of 16 had attended college to study a motorcycle maintenance and repair course with the aim of becoming a qualified mechanic.

He said Stephen started taking ecstasy and heroin when he was 17-years-old and self-harmed soon after his 18th birthday after suffering mental health problems.

Mr Watson added: “It was the ecstasy that caused his mental illness we believe...He was never the same kid again.”

Lesley Howard, project manager for the Leeds Street Outreach Service, said: “Stephen was a genuinely lovely lad with a caring family who were very supportive.

“Unfortunately he became entrenched in a street based lifestyle which tragically lead to his death last September.

“The team supported Stephen for several years and were very fond of him. Our thoughts are with his family.”

To donate to the appeal, go to www.justgiving.com/remember/499027/Stephen-Watson