Original article from Kent Live
Police failed to search for a 17-year-old boy who said he was going to kill himself and to "send someone" in a heartbreaking final phone call, an inquest has heard.
Matthew Mackell, a talented and well-liked maths student from Tunbridge Wells, was discovered hanging from a tree in the early hours of May 7 last year in Dunorlan Park, near his home in Sandhurst Road.
His final phone calls, as well as messages including a birthday card from his family with "sorry" on it left on his bed, were revealed during a dramatic first day of an inquest at County Hall in Maidstone.
Kent Police – which later downgraded the priority of his calls – has been subject to a full investigation by the Independent Office of Police Conduct over their response.
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Matthew's father Michael Bond also gave evidence at the hearing.
He said the Skinners Academy student was doing "very well indeed" at school where he was "very liked".
Mr Bond also said that while Matthew had "quiet days where he went to his room", he seemed "very happy" and had no idea about the extent of his struggles.
He said Matthew had a "heated argument" in the afternoon before his death with older brother Christopher, 18 – something he said was "unusual" for the two of them.
"It wasn't pleasant," he told the court. "It did upset him a lot and he looked upset when he went past me to his bedroom.
"I asked if he was alright and he said he was fine.
"He looked like he needed a bit of time on his own."
At around 10pm Matthew told his dad he wanted to "pop out for a bit" – again something Mr Bond said was not unusual for him, particularly during lockdown.
Mr Bond revealed how he later found the birthday card given to Matthew three weeks earlier by himself and his two other sons: "I found it on his bed the morning the police officers turned up and told me my son was deceased."
You don't have to suffer in silence if you're struggling with your mental health. Here are some groups you can contact when you need help:
Samaritans: Phone 116 123, 24 hours a day, or email firstname.lastname@example.org, in confidence
Childline: Phone 0800 1111. Calls are free and won't show up on your bill
PAPYRUS: A voluntary organisation supporting suicidal teens and young adults. Phone 0800 068 4141
Depression Alliance: A charity for people with depression. No helpline but offers useful resources and links to other information on its website
Students Against Depression: A website for students who are depressed, have low mood, or are suicidal. Click here to visit
Bullying UK: A website for both children and adults affected by bullying. Click here
Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM): For young men who are feeling unhappy. Has a website here and a helpline: 0800 58 58 58
Matthew had also left a message for his family as the screensaver on his phone, found with his body: "Hi. You found me.
"Tell my family I love them and to be there for each other.
"I'm struggling through life."
The night before, at 10.16pm, Matthew had spoken to a BT phone operator and said: "I don't know how to say this. Can you send someone to pick me up? I'm about to kill myself."
The call was relayed to a police call handler, who called Matthew back.
Matthew told PSE Amy Hopper he was "fine" amid prolonged silences, also hanging up several times.
The telephone team leader within the police control room, PSE Elliot Gregson, also phoned Matthew and offered help.
Amid more prolonged silences. Matthew asked: "What do you mean help me?" before hanging up again.
PSE Gregson said he escalated the incident as "immediate action required" and transferred it to the dispatch team, based within the same control room in Maidstone.
PSE Gregson recorded that he was "likely to be in Dunorlan Park" based on the co-ordinates provided by the phone provider.
He told the inquest he "fully expected" a patrol would be sent out to search for Matthew.
Instead, the case was downgraded by the dispatch team from "Immediate Action" to "High" importance.
They said the decision was due to not having an exact location for Matthew, with Dunorlan Park being such a large area.
Earlier in the hearing, Matthew's father had shown a video of the park to the court, showing his son had been found next to the main pathway, near to the car park at the entrance.
Sounding emotional towards the end of the video, he says: "This is where Matthew went to sleep.
"And that [pointing to the path] is where they would have been if they had come down to look for Matthew."
Several police officers testified to it being a "busy night" – although counsel for the family Michael Spencer pointed to evidence that at the time of the calls, patrol teams were available.
It also emerged during the hearing that technology called an "Enhanced Mapping Service" was also available to the police call handlers and the dispatch team on the night in question.
It would have allowed them to pinpoint his location within a ten metre range with confidence of 95 per cent.
However the telephone team leader and the Force Incident Manager on shift at the time said they were unaware the technology existed.
Kent Police has said in light of the incident it uses the technology by "default" on its system, so that it doesn't have to be requested.
By the end of the first day, it remained unclear as to why patrol teams weren't sent out to Dunorlan Park in any case – given the evidence from the family's counsel that they were available.
The dispatch team leader, PSE Underwood, and the dispatch team member who downgraded the call, PSE Blackwell, are due to give evidence at further hearings next week.
The inquest continues.