Published: 11:10, 13 May 2021
| Updated: 16:43, 13 May 2021
Police patrol teams were available the night a teenager called 999 for help before taking his own life, but none were sent out to him, an inquest has heard.
Matthew Mackell, a Year 12 pupil from Skinners' Kent Academy, was just 17 when he died in Dunorlan Park, in Tunbridge Wells.
On the night of May 6, 2020 he called police in distress saying 'Can you send someone to pick me up, I’m about to kill myself”.
He was discovered dead in the early hours the following morning.
During an inquest held in County Hall in Maidstone, the details of his final call and the actions of police leading up to the tragedy were revealed.
The inquest follows an investigation by the Independent Office of Police Conduct which identified 'a number of failings' by the force that night.
After the distressing phone call at 10.18pm, Matthew hung up.
The call handler PSE Amy Hopper called Matthew back five minutes later and Matthew had told her he was now 'fine'.
Despite his answer she told him she had heard him say he wanted to kill himself and gave her name as 'Amy'. She then asked him 'what’s your name?' and he hung up.
Checks made against the phone number to identify Matthew came back with nothing and the control room's team leader PSE James Gregson, also phoned him back in an attempt to offer help.
Through silences Matthew asked 'What do you mean help me?' before hanging up again.
Concerned for the caller's welfare, PSE Gregson then marked the call as "immediate" and transferred it to the dispatch team tracing it as coming from an area near Dunorlan Park based on coordinates.
PSE Gregson then told the hearing from this moment, it was his expectation that a patrol would be sent out.
But the team in the dispatch office then downgraded the call from 'immediate' to 'high' priority based on the search area being so vast and the only available action was to keep 'contacting the phone for updates and information to identify the caller’.
Earlier in the hearing, Matthew's father Michael Bond shared a video he had filmed walking through the park leading up to the location where Matthew's body was found.
It showed he 'went to sleep' in a tree just off a main footpath and made his views clear that had a patrol been sent, even given the large search area, Matthew would have been easy to find.
During the hearing it was also pointed out that a system called, 'Enhanced Information Service for Emergency Calls' which could have helped pinpoint Matthew's location to within 95% had not been used as no members of staff in the control room had any knowledge of it.
Had this function been used, it is likely the call would have remained 'immediate', according to Police Sergeant Mark Sankey who was the Force Intelligence Manager in the control room that night.
As a result of this failing identified in the IOPC report, Kent Police confirmed in May 2020 that this function has now been added as a default setting in an attempt to stop any similar tragedy from repeating itself.
Those working in the force confirmed it had been a busy night, but the family's lawyer Michael Spencer, highlighted evidence which showed despite the high volume of calls, patrol teams were available at the time the call was downgraded.
Giving evidence, those who worked in the control room also mentioned they didn't remember receiving any training on what to do if someone called threatening suicide.
On the anniversary of his son's death, Mr Bond shared the last photo taken of Matthew before he passed away urging people to check in on their loved ones.
Last week marked a year since Matthew's tragic death.
His father says he will never stop sharing his son's story if it means he can prevent others from feeling the same heartache.
Mr Bond said: "I can't have Matthew back. I can't give him a cuddle and tell him I love him, the only thing I can do is try and get things changed so it doesn't happen to anyone else.
"There have been a couple of people who have said they were thinking of taking their own life but didn't after reading Matty's story and that's all I can hope for."
The inquest is set to continue for another two days next week.
It is not yet known why the available patrols were not deployed and those who worked in the dispatch office are due to give evidence when the hearing resumes.
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