A PATIENT was found dead in the bushes at Colchester Hospital by a member of the public after being let out on leave from a mental health unit, an inquest has heard.

Rebecca Armstrong was a patient at The Lakes, in Turner Road, Colchester, after being sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

On August 31 last year her body was discovered by a member of the public in a bush off Turner Road, just metres away from the centre.

Senior Coroner Caroline-Beasley Murray told Chelmsford Coroner’s Court yesterday Ms Armstrong suffered from long-term mental health issues.

She said: “In March 2018 she was admitted to the Linden Centre in Chelmsford under section three of the Mental Health Act. In August she was transferred from there to the Lakes Hospital.

“On August 30 at about 5pm she was granted half an hour unsecured leave but she did not return and she was registered missing at 7.43pm. The next day she was sadly found deceased in one of the boundary bushes of the hospital.

“A post mortem was carried out and the cause of death was given as toxicity of alcohol and other drugs.”

Upon leaving the hospital, Ms Armstrong, who was from Clacton, was seen on CCTV walking to the nearby Premier Store in Turner Road.

She purchased a litre bottle of whiskey as well as some tobacco. It is believed she drank most of the bottle and toxicology results found she had 330mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood, just below the fatal limit.

Several of Ms Armstrong’s medications discouraged drinking whilst using them.

Inspector Steve Scott-Haynes said Essex Police were called to the scene just after noon on August 31, when a member of the public called saying they had found a body in the bushes.

“On examining the scene and it being confirmed there were no injuries I made the decision there were no suspicious circumstances and there was no third-party involvement,” he said.

Ms Armstrong was later spotted on CCTV cameras entering the bush area at around 5.52pm on August 30.

At the time of her death she had been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic as well as suffering from anxiety, depression and several physical health conditions including asthma.

She had been allowed on both accompanied and unaccompanied leave from the unit successfully several times before her death including on the morning of August 30 when she withdrew cash from the bank during a visit to town.

Linda Howarth investigated the incident on behalf of Essex Partnership University Foundation Trust but found staff had followed correct procedure.

“If someone has not come back within half an hour the procedure is to give them another little while,” she added.

“It was just after 6pm and then it became clear she had not come back. Staff searched the immediate area.

“When they could not find her, they activated the missing person’s procedure.”

Ms Howarth told the court her investigation found improvements could be made to unit’s leave records system and these have now been implemented.

A jury found Ms Armstrong had died as a result of an accident.