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A young man who ‘desperately’ wanted to beat his drug addiction was found dead at home after concerned friends and family raised an alarm about his welfare, an inquest has heard.

Anthony Forden’s adult life had been blighted by his addiction to crack cocaine and heroin, Stockport Coroners Court was told.

The 27-year-old, who was described as a ‘loving’ and ‘gentle’ soul, had made several successful attempts to abstain from drugs, with the support of his family and friends.

But in the lead up to his death, an inquest heard that Anthony had relapsed and began using illicit drugs again.

He had previously relied on the help of a number of drug addiction support services but the court heard that many of these resources were scaled back due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

On the evening of August 31, 2020, a friend made a call to Greater Manchester Police, reporting that he was concerned for Anthony’s welfare as he hadn’t seen him for a number of days.

His family also made repeated calls to the force throughout the night to report that they had not heard or seen from Anthony.

The court heard that a lack of resources, and a failure made by a radio operator to escalate Anthony’s case, meant that police officers did not check his home address until the morning of September 1.

Anthony was tragically found deceased by police officers who forced entry into his house later that day. The coroner said he considered it ‘more likely than not’ that Anthony had died before the first call to police was even made, though.

A postmortem and toxicology examination revealed Anthony had died from the combined toxicity of methadone and morphine – in the form of heroin.

‘Police should have attended within an hour’

Detective Constable Nolean Tobin, who works for the Police Professional Standards Branch, conducted an investigation into the handling of Mr Forden’s case.

She told the court that call handlers received a phone call at 10.33pm on August 29 from a friend who was worried about Anthony.

“In this case the call handler should have logged it as a concern for welfare and alerted the radio operator,” Ms Tobin said.

“The operator should have escalated this to a police officer within 20 minutes and a police officer should have attended Anthony’s address within an hour.

“The radio operator delayed the log until 11.10pm because they knew there were no resources available at the time.

“They should have allocated it to an officer within 20 minutes but this wasn’t done because there was not an officer to allocate it to.”

The court heard that the log remained delayed until the following morning, by which time, more members of Mr Forden’s family had contacted the police to express their concerns.

“On September 1, the first police officer was alerted at 7.35am and arrived within 35 minutes,” Ms Tobin said.

“He attended Anthony’s flat and there was no reply. The officer left the address and discussed the matter with his supervisor about what action should be taken.”

Ms Tobin told the court that the officer had carried out some searches, and identified information – later understood to be inaccurate – which suggested Anthony would often lock himself inside with drugs.

“The officers deemed it relevant to delay for more enquiries to be carried out,” Ms Tobin added.

“Throughout the morning they started to receive more calls with more information which became increasingly concerning.

“At 10.33am they received a call from a friend who said she believed it was likely that Anthony had overdosed.

“This was relied to the supervisor and they decided to go back to the property where they found Anthony.”

Ms Tobin told the hearing it was clear that GMP’s escalation policy “was not adhered to,” and that the grading and escalation policy “was not met” by the radio operator.

The radio operator has since received further training and the issue has been addressed, Ms Tobin confirmed to the court.

The court also heard that GMP were extremely busy due to it being a bank holiday weekend.

‘He was desperate to get clean’

Mr Forden’s mother, Victoria Blewitt, told the court she did not believe her son had intended to overdose, and was determined to beat his addiction and be reunited with his family.

“When he was clean Anthony was such a loving, caring and gentle soul,” she said.

“I think a lot of the pressure started when he was 15 or 16. He did a bit of cannabis with friends here and there but as he got older this escalated.

“He went through rehab and managed to get clean for seven amazing months.”

The court heard that Anthony struggled with intrusive thoughts and voices in his head, and had been diagnosed with a personality disorder in the months before his death.

Helplines and websites

Samaritans (116 123) samaritans.org operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at jo@samaritans.org , write to Freepost RSRB-KKBY-CYJK, PO Box 9090, STIRLING, FK8 2SA and visit www.samaritans.org/branches to find your nearest branch.

For support for people feeling suicidal, if you are concerned about someone or if you are bereaved by suicide see http://shiningalightonsuicide.org.uk

CALM (0800 58 58 58) thecalmzone.net has a helpline is for men who are down or have hit a wall for any reason, who need to talk or find information and support. They’re open 5pm to midnight, 365 days a year.

Childline (0800 1111 ) runs a helpline for children and young people in the UK. Calls are free and the number won’t show up on your phone bill.

PAPYRUS (0800 068 41 41) is a voluntary organisation supporting teenagers and young adults who are feeling suicidal.

Beat Eating Disorders: Beat provides helplines for adults and young people offering support and information about eating disorders. These helplines are free to call from all phones. Adult Helpline: 0808 801 0677, Studentline: 0808 801 0811, Youthline: 0808 801 0711. www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk

Anorexia & Bulimia Care: ABC provide on-going care, emotional support and practical guidance for anyone affected by eating disorders, those struggling personally and parents, families and friends. Helpline: 03000 11 12 13. www.anorexiabulimiacare.org.uk/

Students Against Depression is a website for students who are depressed, have a low mood or are having suicidal thoughts. Bullying UK is a website for both children and adults affected by bullying studentsagainstdepression.org

For information and links to charities and organisations that can help with substance abuse, visit https://www.supportline.org.uk/problems/drugs/

Anthony’s aunt, Emma Lockwood said her nephew had got into a vicious cycle of getting clean for a number of weeks, until he had money again which he would spend on drugs.

“The last time I had any contact with him was before lockdown,” his mum told the court.

“We agreed on no contact until he was clean for at least three or four months which was extremely hard. I knew he was still using drugs on and off.

“Even towards the end he was just desperate to get clean but I couldn’t help him anymore.

“I really don’t he believe he did it on purpose. He loved his family so much and he wanted to be with them.”

The court heard that Mr Forden had been receiving support from a service in Tameside called Change, Grow, Live – which helps people affected by drugs and alcohol.

Recovery coordinator, Frances Henderson, said Anthony had teamed up with the service during a period of abstinence to help develop ways to stay off illicit drugs.

“We had to run a reduced service during 2020 because of Covid-19. Most of the appointments were done by phone call unless in the case of an emergency,” Mr Henderson said.

“Our last contact with Anthony was August 18, 2020 when he spoke to a receptionist.

“He called the service and asked to speak to his recovery coordinator but this contact was unfortunately never made.”

Police Coroner’s Officer, Claire Smith, analysed a number of text messages and calls made from Anthony’s mobile phone in the days before his death.

“The last text message was sent from Anthony’s mobile phone at 7pm on August 29,” she told the court.

“The messages were between him and a contact. The content of the messages appeared to show the purchase of illicit drugs.

“It would appear that Anthony and this contact are making arrangements to meet. The messages at around 7pm confirm that a person has arrived at the location. These are the last messages on his phone.”

Ms Smith told the hearing that door-to-door enquiries revealed that neighbour’s had last heard any movement from Anthony’s flat on the evening of August 29.

South Manchester Coroner, Chris Morris, concluded that Mr Forden’s death was drug related.

He said he had heard no evidence to suggest that Anthony had deliberately taken a drug overdose.

“Anthony has been described as a loving and caring person,” Mr Morris said.

“He was clearly an intelligent man however his life has been blighted for many years by an addiction to illicit drugs.

“It is very clear that with support from his family and various agencies, Anthony desperately wanted to free himself from the snares of addiction.

“Around the time of his death he had sadly entered into another period of relapse.

“The police had been informed of a concern for welfare on August 31, however, on the balance of probabilities the evidence provided by the last use of his phone on August 29, means I consider it more likely than not that Anthony had died before that call was even made.”

This content was originally published here.

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