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Liverpool Echo
Liverpool Echo
Ellen Kirwin & Chris Slater

Dad found dead after being 'passed from pillar to post'

A "bubbly" dad who "would do anything for you" was found dead in the back of his lorry in a lay-by.

An inquest heard that Drew Howe, who lived in Widnes, was found in the trailer of the Scania vehicle on the A18 in Lincolnshire on October 19 last year. The coroner confirmed that the 26-year-old took his own life.

Assistant coroner Chris Morris revealed at the inquest that he would raise concerns with a mental health trust following his experiences of being "passed from pillar to post" as he tried to get help.

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Drew joined the Army in 2015, before being posted to the Queen's Royal Hussars the following year. He was never deployed operationally abroad, but spent four years in the forces before his discharge in 2019, the MEN reports.

Drew received hospital treatment after having a "breakdown" while in the forces and later told professionals he believed he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well as anxiety and depression. However no formal diagnosis was ever made.

He then began working as an HGV driver but the inquest heard there was a "dramatic deterioration" in his mental health last summer. He told family members including his sister, Keata Howe, he was feeling depressed while also seeking help from mental health services in Stockport, where he was born.

Drew Howe sadly died aged 26 (Handout)

The hearing was told there were "at least two other occasions" when he had been taken to hospital in Lincolnshire after "reporting intentions to take his life."

Fighting back tears in the witness box, his sister Keata, said: "Just a few months before he did what he did he came out and told us he was feeling depressed and he needed help and we did what we could to help him."

She added: "But he never talked about what he was going through. I never saw him as having depression. Every time I saw him he seemed dead bubbly, he was always laughing and joking around. He was a joker."

Following a consultation with his GP in August last year, Mr Howe was referred to what was then Healthy Minds service for potential talking therapies. Staff deemed him to be "not stable enough" for such therapy and referred him to the access team run by Pennine Care NHS Foundation trust, based at Stepping Hill hospital, which assessed him on October, 13, six days before his death.

Drew Howe with close friend Adam Bellis (Handout)

Following a consultation with a psychiatrist, nurses referred him on once more, to a specialist Military Veterans Service run by the trust. Mr Howe was awaiting an assessment at the time of his death and a referral was received eight days after his death.

He was discharged by the access team without a formal diagnosis or treatment plan being drawn up, the hearing was told. Toxicology tests found there was an 'extremely low' level of alcohol, and no illicit drugs, in his system.

Following his death, tributes flooded in for popular Mr Howe.

Close friend Adam Bellis previously told the ECHO: "I met him about two and half, three years ago. I just met him through the trucks basically. We parked up in the same place one night and the lads I was with at the time that I knew, knew Drew and he just came to the pub with us all and it went from there.

"We hit it off and became best mates." He added: "It's such a shock to us all because he was such a bubbly character and he was dead lively all the time"

Assistant coroner Chris Morris concluded it was most likely Mr Howe's "circumstances didn't fit neatly within the paradigm in which services were being offered.",

He told the hearing: "I can only imagine he felt passed from pillar to post having recounted his difficulties on a number of occasions."

Mr Morris said there was an "absence of critical analysis" in an investigation report carried out by Pennine Care particularly around "the delivery of services from patients' perspective." And he described it as a "missed opportunity" to learn all available lessons.

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