Inquest resumes into death of tragic Sunderland teenager Thomas Brookes

An inquest into the death of a Sunderland teenager found dead at home by his mum has resumed.

Monday, 20th September 2021, 5:43 pm
Thomas Brookes and pictured with mum Helen Wardropper (left) and aunt Cheryl Coggins

Helen Wardropper found 16-year-old Thomas Brookes at their home in Westheath Avenue, Grangetown, on Saturday, September 28, 2019.

Assistant Sunderland Coroner Karin Welsh initially opened and adjourned an inquest into Thomas’ death in January last year and reopened it today, Monday, September 20.

A toxicology test revealed he had died of an overdose of heroin and also showed traces of ketamine, cannabis and cocaine.

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Children and Young People’s service care co-ordinator Alexandra Wilson told the hearing that although Thomas was known to self-harm, he had never expressed any suicidal intentions and her main concern for his safety was that he might accidentally overdose.

Thomas had been placed in a rented house which complied with the requirements of a Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) assessment with support from agency workers, while attempts were made to find him a secure placement elsewhere in the country.

The inquest heard numerous efforts had been made to secure places at various locations through a central agency during June and July 2019, but placements had withdrawn offers, not replied to enquiries or been deemed unsuitable for Thomas.

Thomas had messaged his mother to say he had been assaulted by one of the workers, but a police investigation had not resulted in any action.

The DoLS arrangement had lapsed at the end of July and Thomas had returned home.

Asked by Ms Walsh if any safety plan had been put in place, Alexandra Wilson replied: “Thomas already had a robust safety plan in place. Mum was well aware if it, as was Thomas. My team was well aware of Thomas, my manager was well aware of Thomas.”

Thomas had been too young to enroll on a rehab course that would have offered the support he needed: “The ongoing concern was that what I had in mind did not exist,” said Ms Wilson.

"If he was 18, it did exist. There were no places that offered it so we were trying to make do. There were no services out there.”

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The hearing was told Thomas did not match the typical profile of a drug user – he had been using class A drugs since he was 13, before he had even tried cannabis.

Drug and alcohol worker Giuseppe Furno, from the Youth Drug and Alcolhol Project (YDAP) said Thomas had been an extremely intelligent young man, who had educated himself in the effects of the drugs he took.

"He was trying to find the medication to make himself feel better,” said Mr Furno.

"For whatever reason, he felt there was something wrong with him and that made him self-harm.”

Thomas would often go for periods without using drugs, but this would have reduced his body’s resistance when he relapsed.

Thomas had talked about becoming a drug worker when he was older: “It is a tragedy really – he could have helped a lot of young people,” said Mr Furno.

He agreed Thomas would have benefitted from the help Ms Wilson had wanted: “He needed intervention – he needed rehab, basically.”


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