Email from Gravesend Grammar School warned of Ed Barry tragedy as body found in flat
Ed Barry was found dead
in a drug addict's flat in Gravesend
by Thom Morris
An email sent just nine minutes before teenager Edward Barry's
body was found in a drug addict's flat pleaded with police, health
and social services to help him.
It was revealed at the inquest into the 14-year-old's death
that Gravesend Grammar School's Angela Purdy, who is in charge of
student support, worried about his life, saying: "I don't want to
attend his funeral."
The message - sent to agencies dealing with Edward, known
as Ed - was read out to inquest jurors by counsel for the
coroner Chris Sutton-Mattocks.
The email from Mrs Purdy read: "When are you going to do
something positive to help him? Mr Barry said he didn't know where
his son was.
"This is a boy who is just 14 and he's living with
someone who is selling him drugs. Why can't that adult be
"I wonder what the local newspaper would make of it? I can
see the headline now – '14-year-old dies from drug overdose'. I
don't want to attend his funeral."
Ed's social worker Vicky McCarthy also admitted she was out of
her depth and was not fully qualified when she took on Ed's
case – one of 17 similar cases she had.
She was on a week-long training course that ended on the
day Ed, of Pelham Road South, Gravesend, died on November
Mr Sutton-Mattocks asked Mrs McCarthy: "How many were
as complex as Edward?"
She responded: "I'd say the majority of them."
Despite not becoming a fully qualified social worker until late
October, Mrs McCarthy said all decisions regarding his care would
have been made by her line manager, which would then need to be
taken up with the team manager and then the district manager.
Mrs McCarthy, who met Ed just twice, said she had several
conversations about the teenager and "raised my concerns".
It was considered by social services that work should be put
into ensuring Ed stayed with his family.
She said: "I expressed my concerns to my line manager. Her
decision was hers. I have no say in her decisions."
Meanwhile, psychiatrist Dr Jeanette Philips told the
inquest a warning letter sent to social services in July was
ignored and not taken seriously.
Working for the Kent and Medway NHS and
Social Care Partnership Trust, Dr Philips was helping Ed Barry and
- after a few sessions - took the "unusual" step of
writing to social services and suggest he be given a "secure
Dr Phillips said: "I wanted a secure placement to be considered
and to let them know that it was something more restrictive needed
than the average foster placement.
"I believed he met the criteria. He was out of control, placing
himself at risk and of sexual harm. I was concerned another family
wouldn't be able to handle him. No other agencies had come up with
The family's barrister, Brian Cummins, asked if a lack of
response was usual.
Dr Phillips said: "Yes, it was."
She added: "Social services need to have a real working
relationship with us and the family."
When a meeting of professionals was called in September, Dr
Phillips was not invited.
She said: "I think if the letter had been taken seriously by
social services, I would have been invited to that meeting."
The inquest is now in its second week and is due to continue for
up to another week.
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