Mum-of-four found engulfed in flames on Peterborough ward

A mother-of-four with a history of burning herself was found engulfed in flames on a Peterborough mental health ward after she set herself alight with a cigarette lighter in her handbag, an inquest has heard.

Monday, 6th November 2017, 3:37 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 8:28 am
The Cavell Centre, Peterborough.
The Cavell Centre, Peterborough.

Cambridgeshire's assistant coroner Belinda Cheney said it appeared Heather Loveridge's handbag was not searched on admission to the Cavell Centre mental health unit in Peterborough, and was returned to her.

Mrs Loveridge, 56, was found ablaze in her bedroom's en-suite toilet within a day of being voluntarily admitted to the ward.

She died two days later on August 19 2016 at Broomfield Hospital, which has a specialist burns unit, in Chelmsford, Essex.

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"It seems her handbag was not searched on admission to Oak Three (assessment ward at the Cavell Centre) and at some stage was returned to her," said Ms Cheney.

Mrs Loveridge, of Newmarket, who had psychotic depression, was voluntarily admitted to the Cavell Centre on August 16 2016 and was moved from an assessment unit called Oak Ward Three to a treatment ward.

Ms Cheney said that a fire alarm sounded shortly before 8am the next morning, on August 17 2016.

"Staff investigated and found Mrs Loveridge had set fire to herself in the toilet of her bedroom and her hair and clothes were on fire," she said.

Mrs Loveridge was taken to hospital but did not recover from her injuries.

"It's accepted that she used her cigarette lighter to set fire to herself," said Ms Cheney.

Mrs Loveridge's daughter, also called Heather Loveridge, told a jury inquest at Huntingdon Town Hall that her mother had set herself alight in a previous incident.

Her mother was an inpatient at Fulbourn Hospital mental health facility near Cambridge when she set herself alight and suffered burns to her chest area in February 2013.

Her daughter said failings were admitted over the incident at Fulbourn Hospital, and she called the Cavell Centre when her mother was admitted there.

"I asked for reassurance they wouldn't let the same thing happen again," she said, in a statement read to the inquest.

But she said the family later had a phone call "saying there had been an incident and mum had set fire to herself again".

She added: "She would have had in her handbag a lighter and cigarettes as she was a smoker.

"I believe it was an orange disposable lighter."

Dr Kris Owden, a registrar at the Cavell Centre, was asked by coroner Ms Cheney if people are allowed to have lighters on psychiatric wards. He replied: "No."

The Cavell Centre is run by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust.

The inquest, which is estimated to last three days, continues.