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University of Kent student Lewis Homer took his life at digs in Somner Close, Canterbury

By Gerry Warren

A coroner has asked a psychiatrist to explain why a university student with suicidal thoughts was not admitted to hospital - despite telling doctors he had previously tried to take his own life.

Questions were put to the doctor at an inquest today into the death of 20-year-old Lewis Homer, who was found hanged at his student digs in Canterbury.

Dr Derek Tracy told coroner Ian Goldup about the care Mr Homer was receiving by his 'crisis' team, which was aware he often had "persistent" suicidal thoughts.

Lewis Homer (6747057)
Lewis Homer (6747057)

He said that "on balance" it was felt Mr Homer was better being treated in the community, which he himself wanted.

"We believed he was making some progress and had the capacity to make an informed decision about the type of care and environment in which he received it," said Dr Tracy, who is a consultant at St Mary's Hospital in Sidcup.

Asked by the coroner why he had not been sectioned under the Mental Health Act after revealing he had previously bought a rope and attempted suicide, Dr Tracy said: "He did not meet the criteria of being at imminent risk, or declining. He was accepting and engaging with us."

The inquiry into the tragedy heard that Mr Homer, who had been studying film-making at the University of Kent, was found hanged in his room at a house he shared with five other students in Somner Close, Canterbury, on November 17.

Somner Close, Canterbury, where the tragedy happened. Google Street View (6745138)
Somner Close, Canterbury, where the tragedy happened. Google Street View (6745138)

He was cut down by housemates, including Ryan McDowell, who tried in vain to revive him until paramedics arrived, but they could not save him either.

"He did not meet the criteria of being at imminent risk or declining. He was accepting and engaging with us"... - consultant psychiatrist Dr Derek Tracy

In his statement, Mr McDowell described Mr Homer as an "extrovert, confident and cool guy", but he was aware he had mental health issues and was on medication, which could sometimes make him "hyper".

A police investigation revealed no suspicious circumstances and two suicide notes were found at the scene.

The inquest heard that Mr Homer received close support and care from the crisis mental health team in Canterbury and spent a short spell at St Martin's Hospital.

Mental health nurse Ashley Mellor said that in the month before he died, Mr Homer expressed being anxious about his future and was considering pulling out of his university course, which he found too stressful.

"He felt he was at a crossroads and had strong suicidal thoughts but said he had no intention of carrying it out," he said.

Mr Homer was later transferred to mental health services near his family home in Erith, where he was seen in the community on an almost daily basis. Although leaving university, he continued to visit his student digs and friends in Canterbury at weekends, where he still had a room.

The University of Kent where Lewis Homer was studying film-making (6745299)
The University of Kent where Lewis Homer was studying film-making (6745299)

He was last seen by nurses on November 15 and due to start treatment the following week.

Mr Goldup said Mr Homer's notes revealed his intention to end his life.

"He states he cannot function and has lost his ability to be happy and says there is so much he wanted to achieve but doubts he would ever be capable," he said.

Mr Homer ended the note by saying no one else was to blame, asking everyone to forgive him, thanking his "adoring family" and hoping he will be "remembered in a good light".

Mr Goldup concluded: "Given his mental health issues, the notes and his previous attempt to take his life, there is no doubt this was a suicide."

Speaking directly to his distraught parents, Steve and Jill Homer, he added: "I can only imagine the grief you have suffered."

For confidential support on an emotional issue, call Samaritans on 116 123 or click here for help from Kent County Council.

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