Son Died After Dad Wanted Him Sectioned

A Mentally unstable Port Talbot man died of a paracetamol overdose just days after his father pleaded with social services to help him. Nigel Merrill, aged 45, who lived at Chestnut Road with his father, died at Morriston Hospital on April 26 last year.

Speaking at an inquest into the death, his father, 80-year-old Edwin Merrill, described how he had asked social workers repeatedly to place his son in a psychiatric unit.

But instead of being sectioned, Nigel Merrill was prescribed painkillers and left in the care of his father, Neath Coroner’s Court heard.

A promising footballer in his youth, Mr Merrill played for Baglan Football Club and the South Wales youth team, and was once tipped to pursue a career in the sport.

His father said: “He was an exceptional footballer, but lost interest in the sport and fell into the wrong crowd.

“He started drinking lots and taking drugs – it was such a shame.”

And in the weeks leading up to his death, Mr Merrill suffered from violent episodes and vandalised his father’s home, the inquest heard.

He was arrested by police and remanded in custody after smashing up his father’s TV and patio doors. It was then that his father asked for him to be sectioned, but, the inquest heard, social workers said he did not meet the conditions required.

Edwin Merrill said: “Nigel was in a right state the week before he died. He was mentally unstable, and hadn’t eaten or bathed for months and months. He was even wetting himself.

“When the social workers came, Nigel asked to be taken into hospital – he knew he wasn’t well. I told them I couldn’t look after him.

“I said: ‘I hope Nigel is not going to be one of the ones who slips through the net’, but all they did was give him paracetamol.”

He was found to have 229mg/l of parcetamol in his blood on admission to Morriston Hospital.

A post mortem examination, carried out by consultant pathologist Cieran O’Brien, found the medical cause of death to be multiple organ failure due to paracetamol toxicity.

Mr Merrill’s GP, Richard Annear, said it was likely Mr Merrill was in a confused state when he took the overdose, and had not deliberately harmed himself.

Neath Port Talbot coroner, David Osborne recorded a verdict of misadventure, and said: “Nigel Merrill was obviously a very sick man who had mental health problems.

“It is clear, Mr Merrill, that you did more than anyone could have done to help him. Sadly, your efforts were unsuccessful, but you should not blame yourself in any way for his death.”

After the inquest, Tony Clements, head of community services at Neath Port Talbot Council, defended the authority’s dealings with Mr Merrill.

He said: “I am deeply saddened about the tragic end to Nigel’s life.

“There was a comprehensive package of care and rehabilitation put into place for Nigel which, despite the best efforts of the many agencies involved in Nigel’s care, he did not feel able to follow.

“There is a procedure set up under the Mental Health Act which says that not just a social worker, but two doctors as well, have to declare someone to be suffering from a mental illness to such an extent that compulsory admission to hospital is necessary. For reasons of confidentiality, we cannot go into detail, but it would have been inappropriate to apply the Mental Health Act in this situation.”