‘We tried to help him’: Schizophrenic rough sleeper died after falling from Ilford car park
PUBLISHED: 15:07 25 February 2019 | UPDATED: 15:24 25 February 2019
A rough sleeper with schizophrenia, who died after falling from an Ilford multi-storey car park, had left his care home in Northern Ireland and had stopped taking medication.
Richard Robinson, 49, was found dead on a grass verge at the foot of car park at the junction of Winston Way and Ilford Lane around 7am on July 31 last year.
An inquest at Walthamstow Coroner’s Court today (February 25) ruled that Ricky, as he was known to his family, died from multiple injuries.
But it could not be determined whether his fall was accidental or deliberate.
Senior coroner Nadia Persaud said: “Mr Robinson had de-registered with the GP in 2016. He had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
“It does not appear he was taking medication for this condition at the time of his death.
“There is no evidence to assist with his mental state at the time of his death.”
As result, the coroner recorded an open verdict.
A statement read aloud from Ricky’s brother Alan Robinson recounted his life up until the point he last heard from Ricky, five months before his death.
Born in Belfast, he was one of five siblings.
He travelled to London as an adult, where Alan helped him find labouring work, before returning to Northern Ireland to stay with his mum.
When, in April 2004, his mother died of cancer Ricky inherited her house.
But, he failed to pay the remaining £3,000 on the mortgage and it was repossessed.
Ricky received a lump sum of £40,000 which he used to stay in hotels and hostels.
“He became depressed but he managed to find his way to Berlin and three years later he was found homeless at a railway station late at night by his sister, who lives there,” Alan’s statement read.
“It was like something out of a film,” his sister-in-law Sarah Adkins added, after the inquest.
“If he had been on the opposite platform they would have never crossed paths.”
Ricky was taken to a German clinic where he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
With some reluctance, Ricky was persuaded to return to Belfast to stay in Savannah House, a supported living home, where his mental health seemed to improve.
But he suddenly left and returned to London, following a stint in Amsterdam.
Alan, who works as a cab driver, last saw his brother by chance when he happened to be passing through Great Dover Street, Southwark, one morning in late March last year.
“I tried to corner him and tell him ‘it’s me, Alan’,” he said. “He didn’t want to talk - he would not engage.
“I gave him some money for some food and, as I got back into the taxi, he was gone.”
He added: “It is a very sad end to a long and sad saga.”
Pc Patrick Alderm, who attended the scene of Ricky’s death, was also called on to give evidence.
He said rigor mortis had set in by the time he arrived, indicating Ricky had been dead for some time.
Car park staff at the scene told him that Ricky was known to sleep nearby and “kept himself to himself”.
“They would sometimes hear him sing in the stairwell,” he said.
CCTV he reviewed showed Ricky entering the car park at about 12.30am on July 31.
He is last seen walking on the top stairway at around 3.40am before his body was found the following morning.
No other people were seen to enter the car park during that time.
Toxicology tests revealed no drugs or alcohol in Ricky’s system.
A large duvet, two pillows and a pair of jeans were found 20 to 30 metres away from where his body was found, Pc Patrick Alder added. Speaking after the inquest, Alan said: “We tried to help him for a long time.
“We really, really tried to help him engage with mental health services.
“He wanted to live with family but we did not feel we had the equipment to help him.”
Reflecting on Ricky’s life, he added: “He was always very close with his mum.
“He used to always sing a song if we had the whole family together.
“If Elvis was on the TV he would sing and have a joke.”
The Samaritans charity is available 24 hours a day to provide confidential support for people who are experiencing feelings of distress, despair or suicidal thoughts. Call 116 123.
Redbridge Together, of which the Recorder is a media partner, aims to raise £500,000 for Project Malachi and The Welcome Centre.
Project Malachi will see a temporary hostel by created from recycled shipping containers in Chadwick Road, Ilford.
Your donations will help Project Malachi help more of the borough’s most vulnerable rough sleepers for as long as it is needed.
The Welcome Centre, in St Mary’s Road, helps with providing hot meals, showers, clothing and laundry but also advice and support, training and employment and a nurse-led clinic supporting health and mental health.
Businesses can support by donating money, raising funds, displaying Redbridge Together promotional material or offering work placements.
The campaign is an association between Ilford Salvation Army, The Welcome Centre, Ilford BID, the Ilford Recorder and Redbridge Council.
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Donate £3 by texting LIFE to 70145 or at Crowdfunder.co.uk/RedbridgeTogether