Mental health care failed us, say family of killer Michael Harris
THE mother of sectioned killer Michael Harris said she felt let down by mental health authorities as she laid her son to rest yesterday.
The 26-year-old was found dead on a railway line in Fishponds, Bristol, last month after fleeing from nursing staff while on escorted leave from Fromeside Hospital, where he had been since he was jailed indefinitely for killing his friend Carl James in 2007.
About 35 people attended a small service at Kingsdown Crematorium to pay their respects and speaking beforehand his mother Julie Morgan said: “He wasn’t evil.”
A report last year into the care diagnosed schizophrenic Harris received before the killing suggested 73 recommendations for improvement after identifying poor mental health practices and bad management at the Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership.
Julie, of Pinehurst, said: “What he did was evil but that wasn’t him. He had become so ill and he did not get the help he needed.
“I think he was failed initially but I do not blame the hospital for his death. He was in Sandalwood Court seven years ago and he was under mental health three years prior to what happened with Carl but we just could not get the help.
“Some of the people tried to help him, the psychologist and the community psychiatric nurse, but they were blocked every time and he became dangerous.”
Robert Rowe, of the Institute of Civil Funerals, led the service in a collection of hymns and poems.
He said: “Julie wanted me to talk of the earlier and more carefree times, of the brave son whose family meant the world to him.
“As a child he was quick-witted. He loved to play with his friends, playing in one another’s gardens and simply messing around.
“Michael had a good and happy childhood and his parents thought he was very happy and contented, even if they were not in trying to get some peace and quiet – his taste in music was for happy hardcore and drum and bass, which he liked to play very loud.
“But suddenly the over-excited lad began to show something was not right. The last year of school was a real challenge and aged 16 Michael became increasingly reserved. Once popular with so many, he became a lonely and distant figure, confused by the outside world.
“He was diagnosed with schizophrenia and although medication is a true marvel taking it was a reminder he was not normal.
“At Fromeside Hospital he showed signs of improvement in ability and health – drawing and painting and even making a jewellery box for his mum.
“He was suffering deeply. He sought help everywhere but, sadly, he was seriously, seriously ill and his illness was hard to understand.”
An inquest into his death has been opened by Avon Coroner and adjourned to a date to be fixed.