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Pensioner took his own life after becoming ’embarrassed’ by falls at home

Coroner's inquest questions how dance school principal accessed medical drugs

06 December, 2018 — By Tom Foot

St Pancras Coroner’s Court

A DANCE expert took his own life after becoming embarrassed by a series of falls at home, a coroner’s court has heard.

St Pancras assistant coroner Dr Richard Brittain ruled that David Henshaw was of sound mind before his death at his home in Camden Town in August.

The 88-year-old, who was a principal of the dance school at the former Middlesex Polytechnic, had in the weeks before his death been repeatedly discharged from University College Hospital. He was being visited daily by care workers from agency Hopscotch.

Mr Henshaw had told emergency Careline staff the last time he was seen alive that he was “embarrassed” to be unable to get up again after falling. A statement by Rachael Potts, from Careline, said: “He said he was embarrassed about fall­ing, and said he wanted to go bed and for us to switch off the lights. We turned off the lights, and wished him goodnight.”

Police, after entering the flat two days later, discovered an unidentified crushed white powder mixed with water next to his body. Sergeant Nick Clarke’s report, read to the inquest, said it was “very likely this has caused his death”.

Dr Brittain said it was not known how Mr Henshaw got hold of the drugs, used by hospitals to “bring on a medically-induced coma”.

The drugs could also be “obtained by someone with access to veterinary medication”, Dr Brittain said. “There is a lack of evidence as to how he ob­tained these substances,” he said in his summing-up. “That is a concern for me.”

A friend, who did not give his name to the inquest, told the coroner: “We met weekly. He was a cheerful, happy man. If he has made this decision then it was not because of mental health, but rather as a result of a logical decision based on his deteriorating physical life and ability to move.”

The coroner concluded there were no mental health issues affecting Mr Henshaw.

There were no family members in court. A representative from Hopscotch was at the 30-minute hearing. The company said that it had reviewed and changed its procedures following an internal investigation, which found that a carer had visited Mr Henshaw two days before he was discovered but could not get in because there was no answer.

The inquest heard the care worker had “forgotten” to inform social services because the worker was under considerable pressure due to low staff numbers in the holiday period. A personal trag­edy had also occurred.

The breach of protocol was unlikely to have been a factor in the death, Dr Brittain said.

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