Cornwall

Philpotts family tragedy 'could not have been foreseen'

House fire scene
Image caption Harold Philpotts is thought to have bludgeoned his son and set fire to the family home

An independent psychologist has told an inquest in Cornwall the deaths of a 10-year-old boy and his parents could not have been foreseen.

Ben Philpotts was found with head injuries after a fire at the family home in Trevarrian, Newquay, in January 2010. His mother Patricia also died.

Harold Philpotts, 47 - thought to be responsible - died eight days later.

Kate Howard was brought in to review the workings of the mental health team responsible for Mr Philpotts' care.

She told the inquest in Truro the team could have been more "proactive and dynamic" but could not have foreseen the tragic events of January 2010.

'Verbal threats'

It is believed Harold Philpotts bludgeoned his son with a sledgehammer before setting fire to the house.

Cornwall Coroner Dr Emma Carlyon has heard evidence that Mr Philpotts had suffered from mental health problems for a number of years, including depression, delusion and paranoia.

He had been admitted to hospital on several occasions but discharged himself and refused to take his anti-psychotic medication. The team responsible said he was a difficult patient to treat.

After the deaths, Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust commissioned an external investigation into his care.

Although there was no evidence that Mr Philpotts had been physically violent, the investigation found he had made verbal threats to harm his wife and sent threatening text messages.

The investigation concluded that the tragic events at the family home could not have been predicted.

A serious case review was then carried out by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Safeguarding Children Board.

It cited some weaknesses in communication between the agencies dealing with the family's situation, but said the death of Ben and his mother could not have been foreseen.

The inquest continues.

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