Northern Ireland news

James Fenton: Family search 'could have saved' missing patient

James Fenton (22) who disappeared from the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald on July 2 2010
Staff Reporter

THE mother of a 22-year-old man who died after leaving a mental health ward said he might still be alive if her family had known he was missing.

James Fenton was admitted to the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald, Co Down, in July 2010 but he later climbed over the wall of a smoking area and disappeared.

His body was discovered on the hospital's grounds, less than 40 metres from the ward, 10 weeks after he was last seen.

Police had searched the hospital grounds and told Mr Fenton's family they believed he was staying with friends.

His mother Janice Fenton told his inquest at Belfast Coroner's Court yesterday that her family would have searched for him if they had known he was missing.

"Maybe we could've saved James," she said.

She said Mr Fenton's girlfriend had received a text the night he left the ward, saying: "Opt out, ha ha."

Details of the text were only known two days after he went missing.

In 2013, 12 police officers were disciplined after a Police Ombudsman investigation criticised the search for Mr Fenton.

Mrs Fenton told the inquest that the search had not been thorough.

"All I know is that nobody should lie for 10 weeks out in the open, an animal wouldn't lie that long," she said.

She said her son had experienced serious mental health problems for about 18 months before his death and had attempted to take his own life.

Mrs Fenton said they had had "confrontations" about his consumption of cannabis and alcohol.

The inquest continues.

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