Lewes man with “history of mental health problems” dies in shed fire

Eastbourne Town Hall (Photo by Jon Rigby) SUS-190425-155043008
Eastbourne Town Hall (Photo by Jon Rigby) SUS-190425-155043008

A Lewes mechanic has died in a blaze he started himself because he couldn’t cope with the voices in his head, an inquest at Eastbourne heard.

Mark Overend, 50, of Valley Road in Lewes, had a “history of mental health problems” and was found in his garden shed by emergency services on April 4.

Family members told the inquest about a recent conversation they had with Mr Overend.

His partner Julia said, “The voices were killing him. I’d say to him, what do they say Mark? Telling him he was no good in his head. I would rather be dead he used to say.”

The family said a motorbike accident years ago brought on Mr Overend’s schizophrenia which the coroner Alan Craze said was a factor in his death.

Mr Craze said the mechanic had difficulty managing opioid abstinence as the voices were less intrusive when he took heroin. He also had a history of mental health problems alongside opioid dependency and heroin and cocaine use.

Fire investigation officer Andy May said, “What we think is he started the fire and died of smoke inhalation.”

Firefighters at the scene reported how they saw smoke on arrival, a man spraying the shed with water from a hose and a lady asking if Mark was in the shed.

Mr Craze said, “The fire was started deliberately, designed to burn him.”

DS Ross Bartlett arrived at the scene an hour after the fire brigade.

He said, “Mark would often hear about three different voices in his head. When he suffered episodes like that he would retreat to the shed, put on headphones and listen to loud heavy metal music.

“There was no evidence Mark had been trapped in the shed, the door could have been easily kicked open.”

Simon Hellyer, a mental health service worker, said Mark’s family rang up in January to bring an appointment forward but he was put on a waiting list and would only be seen if someone cancelled their appointment.

Mr Craze said, “The frequency of his outpatient appointments could have been improved.”

A family member said, “It’s not good enough is it? No one can bring him back.”

GP Dr Jason Heath said he had not seen Mark recently although he had expressed suicidal thoughts before.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Sheriff Orekan said, “He did not comply fully with his medication.”

Mr Craze concluded a verdict Mr Overend had taken his own life.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, the Samaritans may be able to help – the charity’s helpline number is 116 123.