Ten Years On - The Fatal Link

At the time Belinda died I was a Council of Management member (legally a non-executive director) of MIND, the biggest English mental Health Charity. This raised an immediate problem as to how we handled publicity. Lucy's death had been headline news in the local press 15 years earlier, and had even had mentions in the national press. In addition key factors in both deaths involved mistakes made in the same police station, with Belinda's arrest looking as if it could have been wrongful arrest. If the local press noted the link it would make a story which could make make headlines in the tabloid press - especially if the link with MIND was also noted.

As a result there were discussions with the appropriate officers within MIND and it was decided to say nothing to the press about the links between Lucy's and Belinda's death, or about my connection with MIND. However plans were laid should the extended story break. The link was not raised in the inquest, and the local press clearly never looked up "REYNOLDS" in their press files, so was not mentioned in MIND's press release

First let me summarise what happened to Lucy. A few weeks after being discharged from a psychiatric hospital, but still a outpatient, she became manic and there were a number of incidents involving taxi drivers (we think she may have been raped by a taxi driver a few days before). She was arrested and charged, and 24 hours later was in Holloway Prison. Everyone we have spoken to, including the police a few hours before the final incident, recognised that she was quite obviously seriously mentally ill, but the unknown (to us) doctor who was called to the police station said she was not, giving the police no option but to charge her. In prison Lucy's condition deteriorated rapidly and as a result of her inability to conform to prison discipline she "qualified" for a strip cell in the Muppet House, where she was classified as violent because if she was let out of her cell she resisted every attempt to put her back. We decided to apply for bail, which was granted on the strength of a medical report (which we were not shown). We later discovered that it described her condition several weeks before her arrest - and did not mention what was happening in prison. Lucy came home but after about 36 hours everything went crazy and she left the house - possibly looking for a taxi driver to kill in revenge for what had happened to her. Fortunately no-one was hurt, but we didn't know till much later that she was suffering from withdrawal symptoms from the powerful drugs she had been given in prison. She was obviously in very serious breach of her bail conditions and I had to return her to the court who sent her back to Holloway. After five months she was transferred to a psychiatric hospital and on the anniversary of her arrest she slashed her wrists on the ward. As that was not fatal she fell to her death from a high building on the anniversary of the bail failure. At the inquest the coroner reported that the time in Holloway could not have helped her mental condition.

Belinda and Lucy were very close but Belinda's reaction to her first visit to Holloway was that she was too terrified to go there again - even to visit Lucy. When Lucy was transferred to the Hospital Belinda saw her regularly and Lucy undoubtedly told Belinda, in embellished detail, of all the horrors of her imprisonment. It is also clear that both Lucy and Belinda personally blamed me for Lucy's return to the prison after the bail incident - and after Lucy's death Belinda refused to talk to me on anything but essential household matters for years.

Belinda was clearly very upset about Lucy's death, but considered the subject of Holloway as something no-one should ever mention. It is not known when her own psychiatric problems started but in 1990 I went to Australia on a one year contract and she was left in charge of the house, with all household bills paid. She clearly found living on her own in the home where she had grown up with Lucy unbearable, and she moved out, buying a small property near her work. It seems she was first seen by a psychiatrist about this time. At some stage she also formed a small group of supportive friends with whom she felt free to talk in confidence of her spells of deep depression - when Lucy seem to be telling her that there was "always a way out".

A couple of years later Belinda's depression became so bad that she spent two long spells in hospital and her employer pensioned her off at the age of 24 on health grounds. Helped by her close friends, and her voluntary work with a charity, she made what appeared to all but her close friends (who knew about her sudden dips into depression) to be a complete recovery. She helped to organise a large agility dog show, and was holding down a responsible full time job.

Unfortunately she had a new neighbour, who others tell me was a real bully, who started to harass her, and she started to look at the options of moving house. To make matters worse, bearing in mind her dread of Holloway, his occupation was a prison warder. One evening there was a minor incident about a dog barking and when Belinda tried to apologise she was attacked by the wife. Terrified that the husband would be next she fled to the police station but did not want to make a formal charge in the interest of future good relations with her neighbour. The husband, on seeing a trivial scratch on his wife, took her to the station (where he undoubtedly had good contacts because of his work) and despite the fact that the police superintendant later told me that the police did not get involved in minor neighbour disputes, the police decided to arrest Belinda.

Belinda was asked to go to the station, the same police station where her sister had been arrested, thinking they are going to help after her visit. When she get there she was arrested and when she complained they told her that there was no record of her having been there before. Not surprisingly she became suicidal and was admitted to a psychiatric ward. Technically she was meant to return to the Police Station to make a statement but as a suicidal mental health inpatient the law makes it very clear that she would not have to go. Despite this the consultant told her that she had to go, and the hospital notes repeatedly record that she said she would kill herself rather than return. (i.e. the staff deliberately lied about her legal rights.) Interestingly there is nothing in the notes to indicate why she might be afraid of the police and prison - and the overall tone of the notes is consistent with them assuming that if a mentally ill patient is arrested they must automatically be the guilty party.

The night before the visit was due Belinda prepared written statements to hand to the police, made a will, and drafted farewell letters to friends, but then changed her mind and handed the drugs she had intended to use to kill herself to a nurse. Despite this the hospital still sent her to the police station. Superficially everything went very well, the police accepting her story and suggesting she make a counter-charge. She returned to the hospital in a good mood ...

Then she looked at the paper the police had given her to extend bail - to find out that it said she had been charged. She discussed this with a nurse who agree that she must have been - although in fact it was discovered after her death that this was merely a clerical error. Even someone who was in perfect mental health might well have felt the police were out to get them in these circumstances. Belinda became very distressed and very angry - and I suspect she wanted to complain to a consultant about being double crossed by the police and misled by the hospital. Even being found with shoe laces tied tightly round her neck (the first time anything like this had happened) was not enough to get her to see a consultant so she decided to stage a more impressive mock-suicide and accidentally killed herself.