Bridge ‘suicide pact’ teenager was ‘making good progress’ at care home

A girl who fell to her death from a bridge with a friend was making good progress one week before she was placed in a care home’s secure unit, an inquiry heard.

Niamh Lafferty, 15, and Georgia Rowe, 14, died after falling more than 100ft from the Erskine Bridge on October 4, 2009, in an apparent suicide pact.

They were both residents at the Good Shepherd Centre in Bishopton, Renfrewshire.

An inquiry into the girls’ deaths at Paisley Sheriff Court heard on Wednesday that Niamh was placed in the Good Shepherd secure unit on March 16 2009, after her 16-year-old boyfriend Jonny McKernon died of an overdose.

But one week before, March 9, an audit of Niamh’s file carried out by a senior social worker had marked her as having shown “good” evidence of progress.

Joy Daniels, area children’s manager for Helensburgh and Lomond, completed the audit which was also referred to as a management review.

Ms Daniels told the fatal accident inquiry that the “progress” being evaluated was that of the teenager’s entire time in the care system, which began on June 19, 2008.

Niamh had been released into her father’s care in February 2009 but this only lasted six days. The inquiry has been told that a proposed support package was never put in place.

Niamh had later written a letter which pointed out that her father, Paul Lafferty, had no money even for food or hot water.

Ms Daniels told the hearing: “There was good progress made in terms of the young person having been able to move on from a residential unit and back into the community.”

But Sheriff Ruth Anderson QC said Niamh had “obviously not” been able to move back into the community because the placement only lasted a short time.

Sheriff Anderson said: “Six days later and she is back in care. Is that progress?”

Ms Daniels, who works for Argyll and Bute Council, replied: “No.”

The audit was completed less than a week after the funeral of Niamh’s boyfriend who died on February 21, 2009.

Ms Daniels also told the hearing there was a “breakdown in communication” when it came to sending Niamh back to live with her father before proper support was put in place for the pair.