Leah, who suffered from Autism, Aspergers Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, was at her home in Kings Heath south Birmingham, England, when Lucy and Omaij forced their way into her flat on February 2nd.
She was with a friend, Paul James-Lyons, when they attacked. She was punched by Lucy, knocked over with a dog lead while she tried to protect herself and after they were done torturing her, they poured vinegar on her wounds to make them sting. Leah's friend fell from the third-floor balcony as he tried to escape being lynched.
Lucy and Omaij were jailed for the attack, but Leah took her life afterwards and was found hanged in woodland on October 7 last year. It was revealed that Leah had been a victim of domestic violence. She also experienced extreme mood swings and had a history of self-harming, so it seemed the attack was too much for her when combined with all she had previously suffered. She was under the care of Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Trust, and then Forward Thinking Birmingham, and was living at Manningford Care Home in Druids Heath, at the time she died.
Speaking of Leah, her foster parents, Marilyn and Steven Ratheram, described her as someone with a ‘great sense of humour.’
“She loved everyone in her own way and she was a great artist,” said Steven. "But she struggled with accepting her problems. One minute she was happy, the next she was very sad.”
They disclosed that before the attack at her flat, Leah became involved with an older man who beat her up often, but shortly before her death, she had found a new boyfriend who made her very happy. They, however, struggled to get her the appropriate care for her mental health needs.
During the court hearing, Debbie Moore, manager of Manningford Care Home, told the court that Leah had developed new ways to harm herself and that gave them serious concern.The home had contacted the mental health team because they did not feel they could provide the level of care that Leah needed. As Leah was being assessed, her care was being transferred to the newly set up mental health organisation, Forward Thinking Birmingham.
Leah made attempts to hang herself, resulting in a doctor and representative from the group paying a visit to the care home to assess Leah. Care home staff were under the impression further assessments were due to be made but the visit was not followed up by Forward Thinking, the inquest heard.
Coroner Ms Hunt said while she did not believe anything could have been done any differently to prevent Leah’s death, she did have ‘concerns’ about the lack of continuity in her care. She called for a review of the way patients are assessed when they are being considered for sectioning under the Mental Health Act.
“It seems to me that Leah has fallen between two stools here. There has been a change over in care, during a time where Leah was being assessed." Ms Hunt said. “There was an opportunity for Leah to be re-assessed and this did not happen. We cannot then know what would have been the outcome of this for Leah, had this taken place. Leah had very complex needs and she had a very difficult life. She could not cope and she decided to take her own life. But I do have concerns that there seemed confusion as to who was actually providing the care for Leah, at a time she needed it most."
She continued: “In my view, there was critical information about Leah that other staff were not aware of. There did seem to be a lack of continuity in her care and I think these concerns need to be raised.”