Family of toddler strangled by psychotic mother say pleas “fell on deaf ears”

Neil Close and Julie Stout, brother and sister of Melanie Ruddell, a woman who killed her two-year-old son Christy before carrying his lifeless body into a police station. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday May 30, 2012. The family of a woman who killed her two-year-old son said after an inquest today that his death may have been prevented, but that their concerns 'fell on deaf ears'. Melanie Ruddell, 40, suffered a swift psychotic breakdown before she strangled her toddler, Christy, at her brother's home in West Rainton, near Durham, in August 2010. See PA story INQUEST Mother. Photo credit should read: Arj Singh/PA Wire

Neil Close and Julie Stout, brother and sister of Melanie Ruddell, a woman who killed her two-year-old son Christy before carrying his lifeless body into a police station. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday May 30, 2012. The family of a woman who killed her two-year-old son said after an inquest today that his death may have been prevented, but that their concerns 'fell on deaf ears'. Melanie Ruddell, 40, suffered a swift psychotic breakdown before she strangled her toddler, Christy, at her brother's home in West Rainton, near Durham, in August 2010. See PA story INQUEST Mother. Photo credit should read: Arj Singh/PA Wire

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THE family of a toddler strangled to death by his mum while she was in the grip of a psychotic episode say their concerns “fell on deaf ears” in the days before the incident.

Melanie Ruddell, 40, killed her two-year-old son Christy after suffering a nervous breakdown.

She later walked into Peterlee police station carrying his body.

On August 8, 2010, following concerns about her behaviour from family and friends, Mrs Ruddell was taken to the University Hospital of Hartlepool by ambulance before being diagnosed as having acute psychosis by A&E specialist Dr Clement Agbatar.

However, when Dr Agbatar informed Mrs Ruddell that it may be several hours before a crisis team could arrive to carry out a full mental health assessment on her, she claimed she was feeling better.

She discharged herself and went to her brother Neil Close’s home, in West Rainton, where Christy was being cared for, before strangling him hours later.

Mr Close, speaking after the inquest into Christy’s death recorded a verdict of unlawful killing, said: “If we were listened to at any point maybe things would have been entirely different and we wouldn’t be here now.

“He (Dr Agbatar) has proceeded to let our Melanie walk out of hospital and come back to Christy.

“That, for me, is key, and that is the reason we are here today.”

Sunderland coroner Derek Winter said Dr Agbatar “did not appear to fully appreciate the diagnostic relevance or the risk implication of the symptoms he elicited.”

Mr Winter will now write to the Secretary of State for Health to recommend mental health awareness training for health staff while also stressing the important role family and friends play in such cases.

Delivering his verdict, Mr Winter said: “There was a common theme that information was being gathered by a number of different agencies.

“However, those agencies, although attempting to share information, were not providing it to a common source, or were providing it later after the event.”

Mr Winter added: “The communications here at times were confused, fragmented and on occasions based upon the mistaken belief that information would be passed on or information would be sought out.”

Mrs Ruddell, formerly of Dene View, Castle Eden, pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility in February 2011.

Speaking about Melanie, Mr Close, who attended the hearing with his sister Julie Stout, added: “She is as devastated as a woman can be and she will be like that for the rest of her life.”

Mrs Ruddell continues to receive treatment at a secure facility.

Verdict: unlawfully killed