Coroner says mental health experts ‘got it wrong’ over woman’s suicide

Nikki Lambert with her beloved springer spaniel Star
Nikki Lambert with her beloved springer spaniel Star

Mental health care professionals have been criticised at an inquest into the death of a 33-year-old woman.

A decision not to detain Nicola ‘Nikki’ Lambert under the Mental Health Act was the wrong one, said East Sussex Coroner Alan Craze.

Later the same day, on October 21 last year, she fell from Beachy Head and died of multiple injuries.

Mr Craze said Miss Lambert was mentally ill and reasons for sectioning her for her own health and safety were “overwhelming”.

The inquest at Eastbourne Town Hall yesterday (Thursday, July 5) heard the veterinary nurse suffered from both physical and mental health problems and had made “genuine” suicide attempts on a number of occasions.

The first came after she blacked out while driving her car and crashed on December 27 2016, which caused her to surrender her driving licence.

Her parents, Peter and Pat Lambert, of The Ridgeway, Seaford, said in a statement they felt the mental health service let her down. “No-one seemed to listen to us, that she was in distress,” they said. “We told professionals she was not OK, but they wouldn’t listen.”

Miss Lambert grew up in Seaford and moved to Chambers Road, St Leonards, in 2009. She worked at the RSPCA’s Mallydams Wood centre at Fairlight.

After her death it emerged that she kept a journal which revealed that, though she managed to persuade people she was well, she was “not in a good place mentally” and was making plans to take her own life.

Things came to a head on October 19 last year when she took an overdose of 32 Paracetamol tablets. She refused treatment at A&E.

The following day she disappeared and her mental health nurse at Cavendish House in Hastings, Marwan Mohammed, alerted police.

They tracked her on her mobile phone and she was detained in Worthing and taken to Mill View Hospital in Hove, for adults with mental health problems.

There the sectioning assessment took place at 12.30am on October 21 when Miss Lambert was described as “friendly and engaging” throughout the interview with three experts and it was concluded she was not under a mental disorder that required sectioning. She left the facility later that morning.

This was despite a telephone conversation with her parents that night who said she needed to be detained because they feared she would take her own life.

Mr Craze asked Dr Barkath Ulla Khan, specialist registrar in psychiatry: “Did you consider she was putting on an act because she wanted to get out?

“Her safety was a primary concern. Can a good actress always avoid being sectioned?”

Dr Khan replied: “It’s possible.”

Mr Craze said: “My view is your decision was the wrong decision.”

He said there had been an ongoing and escalating crisis concerning Miss Lambert. He said the people who knew her best understood she was at risk and queried at what stage a person needed to tip the scales and be sectioned.

He recorded a conclusion of suicide.