Havant 'life and soul of the party' window cleaner, 20, took own life amid struggles after mum's death

A MAN who was described as ‘loving’ and the ‘life and soul of the party’ took his own life after struggling following his mum’s death, an inquest heard.

By Steve Deeks
Tuesday, 4th January 2022, 1:42 pm

‘Popular’ Havant window cleaner Alfie Walkley was found hanged on September 8 in 2020 after declaring to family: ‘I just want to be with my mum.’

Portsmouth Coroner’s Court heard the 20-year-old’s mental health plummeted following the death of his mum in 2016 resulting in a ‘tight bond being broken’.

Alfie became more ‘withdrawn’ and ‘depressed’ as he turned to recreational drug ketamine to cope - with his family believing more could have been done to save him.

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The Coroner's Court - in Guildhall Square, Portsmouth, Hampshire Picture by: Malcolm Wells

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His addiction led to him suffering ‘terrible’ pains, compounding his ‘deteriorating’ mental health.

Coroner Rosamund Rhodes-Kemp said: ‘Following the death of his mum, unfortunately his personality changed from being outgoing, popular, attractive and the life and soul of the party to being less sociable and more introverted.’

Alfie’s problems further spiralled as the country went into lockdown, which also scuppered his ‘wish’ to go into the construction industry. ‘He was isolated from the people that could support him,’ the coroner said.

‘He couldn’t go into the construction trade and had more time to think about things which in his case was not a good idea. To cope with his feelings he took ketamine, which had long-term effects.’

The previous month before his death on August 6 Alfie had deliberately crashed his car into a central reservation with no seat belt on while driving at 50mph, which left him with minor injuries. ‘He tried to kill himself,’ Ms Rhodes-Kemp said. ‘It was a big sign he was unhappy and drew him to the GP.’

Family told the hearing Alfie needed more support following the incident.

Alfie’s sister Chelsey Byng recalled speaking to her brother in the ambulance after the crash. ‘He said: “I tried killing myself.” He said it in front of me and two other paramedics.’

But with Alfie not telling staff at Queen Alexandra Hospital about his intention and Chelsey not allowed to go with him to hospital amid Covid rules, it meant medics were in the dark over his intentions - with no referral made to the mental health team as a result.

Alfie subsequently confided to his GP at the Bosmere Medical Practice about his problems with the doctor suggesting counselling and attending a treatment centre.

But family members insisted the surgery ‘could have done more’ by making the appointment for ‘embarrassed’ Alfie - and should even have sectioned him.

The family’s agony was compounded the day before his death when Alfie’s nan attempted to speak to a doctor at the surgery amid increasing concerns over his state of mind but was incorrectly blocked by a receptionist.

This has prompted training for call-handling staff, especially regarding calls from concerned relatives, who now speak to a duty doctor.

But Ms Rhodes-Kemp said she was ‘not sure what difference it would have made’ with sectioning someone requiring ‘going through endless hoops’ and being ‘long winded’, as well as requiring someone to be presenting ‘acute symptoms’ at the time.

She also told the hearing how Alfie would have to be ‘willing’ to make and attend appointments. ‘You can’t force someone,’ the coroner added.

But family said GPs should ‘make the call’ to services, at least.

The coroner added: ‘I think Alfie got increasingly depressed and miserable. He was very close to his mum and a tight bond was broken (when she died). He was never able to express how he felt about losing his mum. He took ketamine to cope.’

Chelsey said how Alfie will be remembered for being ‘loving’ and having ‘many friends’ and being the ‘life and soul of the party’.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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