Grantham-born teenager died in tent after sniffing aerosol

Bennjamin Armitage
Bennjamin Armitage
Have your say

A Grantham-born teenager died a “sad and untimely” death from sniffing aerosols inside a tent in Old Goole, Hull Coroners’ Court was told.

Former Goole High School pupil Bennjamin James Armitage, 18, was found laid down inside a tent behind Percy Street by his friends on September 7, 2013. Aerosol cans were found and the tent smelt of air freshener.

Mr Armitage’s mother Sharryn Sanderson, of Grantham, told the court her son was in care between the age of eight and 15 because she had suffered from a breakdown ­although she did still see him regularly during that period.

Speaking of the time when Mr Armitage moved back to live with her, Ms Sanderson said: “He wasn’t happy and was struggling to engage. One day I noticed a can of deodorant in the house had its top missing and after discussing it with him I found out he had started sniffing aerosols.”

In 2012 Mr Armitage moved out of his mother’s home and started ‘sofa surfing’ at friends’ houses in Goole.

He began working at the Asda supermarket in Goole, but the shop manager said he was unfit to work because he was suffering from blackouts.

He then started claiming benefits, but his money was stopped in May 2013 when he failed to turn up for a JobCentre meeting.

The coroners’ court was told that on July 26, 2013, Mr Armitage ­along with two of his friends ­attended the Minor Injuries Unit at Goole Hospital because he had cut himself.

He was assessed by Sam Devereux, a mental health nurse with the East Riding of Yorkshire crisis team, who did not believe he was suicidal.

Mr Devereux said Mr Armitage had told him that whenever he used aerosols he would hear voices.

Mr Armitage told Mr Devereux he was busy in the upcoming days, but agreed to attend a drop­in session later to tackle his drug problems.

Then on September 1 John Dunwell, a paramedic with the Yorkshire Ambulance Service, met Mr Armitage while he was sitting in his rapid response vehicle parked at Junction 36 of the M62 in Goole.

Mr Dunwell said Mr Armitage had told him he had a knife in his rucksack and was feeling suicidal. Mr Armitage handed the knife over to the paramedic and an ambulance was called to take him to Doncaster Royal Infirmary.

Team practitioner Paula Carpenter, who assessed Mr Armitage at Doncaster Royal Infirmary, told the coroners’ court: “It seemed his social situation, his benefits and homelessness was impacting on his mood.

“But at the time of assessment he showed no signs of suicidal or self­harm thoughts and wanted to leave to go to his mum’s home in Grantham.”

On September 3 Mr Armitage was assessed by the Grantham Crisis Team as a result of his mother being concerned that he was ‘not responding’. That team did not believe Mr Armitage was suffering from a mental illness and sent him back to his mother’s house.

On September 4 the police were forced to attend Ms Sanderson’s home because Mr Armitage was uncontrollable, having taken about seven of his mother’s diazepam tablets.

They arrived to find Mr Armitage had fled the house. Later, when police officers found him, he was seen to have cut himself with broken glass, which he did outside the local community centre.

Mr Armitage was taken to the Peter Hodgkinson Centre at Lincoln County Hospital where social worker Martin Halliday and Dr Richard Smith completed a further mental health assessment.

Mr Halliday said Mr Armitage had been going through a turbulent time, but did not show signs of a mental illness.

On September 5 DC Gareth Ramsey, of Grantham police station, was called out in the morning to reports of Mr Armitage being aggressive outside his mother’s house.

DC Ramsey said Mr Armitage did not appear to have suicidal or self­harm thoughts. He said he had taken him to the local JobCentre so he could try to sort out his benefits.

That evening Mr Armitage stayed with his father Trevor Parkinson and his father’s partner Beverly Burris, in Nottingham, but later the police were called out again because Mr Armitage was found sniffing aerosols.

The coroners’ court was told Mr Armitage did not have contact with his father while he was growing up, but he had ‘reconnected’ with him in 2011.

On September 6 Mr Armitage returned to Grantham for a meeting with social worker Kerry Wright. Although there was a place available at Bala House ­ a local hostel for homeless people ­ Mr Armitage wanted to go back to Goole to stay with friends. As a result, the local South Kesteven District Council provided a train ticket for him to travel there.

Finally, on September 7 Mr Armitage’s body was found in a tent in Old Goole. The coroners’ court was told how Lloyd Michaels, a ‘lone responder’ paramedic based in Brough, was called to the scene at 6.38pm. A group of local teenagers showed him where Mr Armitage was and he was pronounced dead.

PC Timothy Knowles, of Goole police station, was also called to the scene. He said he recognised Mr Armitage through his previous contact with him as a result of Mr Armitage’s chaotic lifestyle and minor offending.

PC Knowles told the court: “I entered the tent and could smell air freshener. There were about five or six aerosol cans on the floor of the tent.”

After reading Mr Armitage’s medical notes, Dr Robert Kehoe ­ who has been a psychiatrist since 1993 ­ said Mr Armitage had showed some features of an emotionally unstable personality disorder, although being aged only 18 “he was still developing”.

Pathologist Anne Campbell recorded that Mr Armitage died as a result of cardiac arrhythmia, which is an irregular rhythm in the heart. This was as a result of volatile solvent abuse.

She said that if a person is anxious or agitated while using solvents it increases the likelihood of cardiac arrhythmia.

The coroner ­ Professor Paul Marks ­ agreed with the pathologist’s findings and recorded a verdict of accidental death.

He said Mr Armitage had been offered help by a number of different agencies and that he would accept it, then ultimately ignore it. Prof Marks said none of the agencies involved had failed in their duty.

He offered his condolences to the family and said the death was “sad and untimely”.

After the inquest Sharryn Sanderson said she was happy with the conclusion. She said: “Benn was wacky, fun­loving and had a good sense of humour. He started dancing from a young age and then moved on to playing musical instruments ­like the guitar and keyboard. He loved skateboarding and free running.

“I would like to say thank you to his friends, who are known as the ‘attic dwellers’. Without them I wouldn’t have got through the last year.”