Ex-soldier from Pontblyddyn died from self inflicted stab wounds


Romilly Scragg

A MAN with psychiatric problems died after stabbing himself on his 49th birthday.

Alun Sheppard, of Woodland View, Pontblyddyn, died in hospital on January 10 after he attacked himself repeatedly with a carving knife.

At an inquest yesterday coroner John Gittins told Mr Sheppard’s family their relative was suffering from paranoid psychosis.

And he said he agreed with them that if they had they been informed of the nature of his condition, his death might have been prevented.

Brother-in-law Gilbert Roberts, in a statement to the Ruthin hearing, said Mr Sheppard had largely cut himself off from the family after leaving the army.

The hearing was told that in 2007 Mr Sheppard, a single father, was admitted to hospital because of mental health issues which continued after he was discharged two or three weeks later.

He continued to keep his distance from family members but on December 8, 2013, he turned up at brother Glyn Sheppard’s home with an overnight bag and asked to stay.

He had stopped taking his medication and stopped seeing his psychiatrist.

Concerned that he was getting no support, his family arranged for him to seek medical attention again. A December 18 psychiatric report stated Mr Sheppard was drinking heavily and had stopped taking his medication. He also believed his neighbours were interfering with his home.

Mr Gittins, coroner for North Wales East and Central, said: “All these thoughts were the product of his illness rather than any underlying truth.”

Glyn Sheppard said his brother was put back on medication and he seemed to be getting better. He still complained about neighbours but the family were “not overly concerned”, although they did encourage him to drink less and to make sure he took his medication.

On December 21 Glyn Sheppard left his brother at home while he went shopping in Wrexham. When he returned at 11.30am, he found him lying on his side in the hallway covered in blood.

He was still alive but had stabbed himself several times with a carving knife from the kitchen.  He died at Wrexham Maelor Hospital three weeks later. A post-mortem examination found Mr Sheppard had died of bronchial pneumonia and multiple organ failure caused by multiple traumatic stab wounds.

Surgeon Palanichamy Chandram said Mr Sheppard had three stab wounds to his chest, three to his abdomen and lacerations to both his arms and his neck.

Glyn Sheppard said: “We did not realise he was so poorly. He had not thought to hurt himself prior to this, as far as I am aware.”

In a letter read out at the inquest brother-in-law Gilbert Roberts said Alun Sheppard’s “tragic and catastrophic” death might have been avoided if the family had been more involved.

“I realise there is an issue of confidentiality but none of us was aware of his clinical diagnosis,” he said.

“I feel if some of us had been aware we would have been able to monitor him better and check his condition.

“It was so difficult without knowing. We had so little idea. If we had been more fully involved, this tragedy might not have happened.”

Mr Sheppard’s sister, Mary Roberts, told the hearing: “In cases like these a member of the family needs to be kept informed.”

Mr Gittins said: “This was not a situation where he inflicted these wounds with the intention of ending his life.”

He reached a narrative conclusion, saying: “The deceased took a kitchen knife and inflicted on himself a number of stab wounds which resulted in his death.”

Mr Gittins added that after careful consideration he had decided to send a report to Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board with particular reference to Mr Sheppard’s psychiatric assessment on December 18.

He said he shared the family’s concerns about their lack of involvement.

“I agree with you,” he said. “Alun had the right to privacy and I think mental capacity was not something that had ever been judged as lacking.

“But if it makes certain people think in the future and we can take something positive from this tragedy, it must be worth seeking to achieve that.”

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