Published: 17:25, 13 June 2012
by Hayley Robinson
An inquest has heard how a severely autistic man escaped from his care home before falling to his death.
Seven witnesses appeared today at the Archbishop's Palace, Maidstone, and told of the last moments of Christopher Wakeman.
The 23-year-old died after getting out of Byfield Court Care Home, Sheppey Way, Bobbing, on November 28, last year.
The inquest heard how a catalogue of errors had led to a confusing situation where support worker Kylie Louise Tye, left her keys in a lounge where Mr Wakeman was alone.
All staff had previously been ordered to keep keys on their person following an incident on August 31 when Mr Wakeman had taken some from an unattended office.
He had then made his way down to the nearby Bobbing services and entered the convenience store - stealing Coca-Cola and sweets before knocking over a wine display.
On November 28, he used Ms Tye's keys to get out of the building and walked down to the Quinton flyover bridge across the A249.
Motorist Gary Oakwell told how he saw Mr Wakeman standing on the wrong side of the railings looking towards the Sheppey Crossing.
Then without warning, he fell backwards as if he was "falling onto a soft mattress".
Flowers were left on the Quinton flyover, Sittingbourne
Mr Oakwell said: "The initial thought was 'did that really happen? Was it a mannequin pushed off? Because there was no movement."
Mr Wakeman fell 20ft onto the road and later died of multiple injuries.
Ms Tye, 23, who has since left her job at the home, told the court that she could not explain how she had come to leave her keys in the lounge.
After a full day's hearing, Coroner Patricia Harding adjourned the inquest until 9am next Wednesday.
She indicated her options were to record suicide, accidental death or narrative verdicts.
She was also considering the possible use of a Rule 43 order which could be drawn up to ask the authorities to take action to "prevent further death".
Mr Wakeman's mother Catherine Butters, who was present throughout the hearing, said her family would feel in limbo until next Wednesday.
An investigation into Mr Wakeman’s death is currently being carried out by Kent County Council, Medway council and ACH Care Homes, which runs Byfield Court.
After investigating the matter, police decided no criminal offence had taken place.