Sussex Police investigated following Worthing man’s death

The announcement was made at Parkside this afternoon. Photo by Steve Robards SUS-150317-151409001
The announcement was made at Parkside this afternoon. Photo by Steve Robards SUS-150317-151409001

Sussex police officers failed to respond to a phone call from a ‘petrified’ man who was the target of financial abuse - the night before he died.

Richard Copithorne, 41, of King Edward Avenue, Worthing, called 999 to report his concerns about a man outside his house.

The man, who was known to police - had previously made ‘death threats’ against Mr Copithorne for money, stayed in his house and allegedly stole his wallet.

However, officers did not respond to the call within the hour and the call was downgraded by an operator who spoke to Mr Copithorne and said the case had been ‘resolved’.

An inquest into the death of Richard Copithorne, who died after falling from Teville Gate car park in Worthing on July 23, 2013, is being held at County Hall North, Horsham.

The jury heard the incident was investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

A report by the IPCC raised concerns about the Sussex Police vulnerable adult policy, the rank of officers dealing with multi-agency cases, procedure when police bail is breached and vulnerable adults training in the organisation.

However, David Heslop, from the IPCC, said he did not believe the findings directly played a part in Mr Copithorne’s death.

Mr Copithorne was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1995 and was being monitored by Claire Baker, a support worker from Southdowns Housing Association, PCSO Nicola Berstown from Sussex Police and David Merry from Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

Sergeant Mark Williams, Sussex Police, said Richard had gone to the eleventh floor of the Teville Gate car park in Worthing on the day of his death.

He said Richard’s last phone call was to a phone box near Lewes station, and confirmed the man who was known to Richard had been in the Lewes area at the time of the phone call.

Sergeant Williams also noted Richard’s belongings - his phone and keys - had been left in a different part of the car park, which he said was ‘consistent’ with Mr Copithorne taking his own life.

PCSO Berstow said: “Richard’s demeanour indicated that he was petrified of this man. It was just the way he looked and the way he spoke. It was frustrating that until he made an allegation there wasn’t a lot I could do.

“I believe I did as much as I could and I believe Claire Baker did as much as she could. I can’t speak for the mental health services but I know Richard hadn’t taken his medication for nine months. Perhaps that should have been looked at a little further.”

Mr Copithorne was also seen with bruises on his face.

PSCO Berstow said: “He said he was very clumsy and had hit himself walking through a tunnel.”

Police investigated the circumstances surrounding Mr Copithorne’s death, but Sergeant Williams said there just wasn’t enough evidence to show the man, who was known to police, was responsible or ‘directly culpable’ for Richard’s death.

The hearing into Mr Copithorne’s death continues.

Death threats made against Worthing man, jury hears

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