Mental health trust admits ‘failures in care’ after animal care boss Alison Danks was found dead on the beach

A health trust has made changes following ‘care breakdowns’ after a mentally ill woman was found dead on a beach.

Business owner Alison Danks disappeared from her home on Lancaster Drive, Marske on May 22, 2020, following a long mental health battle.

Her disappearance sparked a number of calls from the police in an attempt to find her and witnesses were asked to come forward.

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After an extensive search, her body was found washed up on a beach in Grimston, East Yorkshire.

An inquest into his death was held at Teesside Coroner’s Court on Thursday before Chief Coroner Clare Bailey.

The inquest was heard hours before her disappearance, with police called to reports that Ms Danks – who they identified as a vulnerable woman – was attempting to board a navy vessel in Teesport.

Witnesses said she was attempting to travel to Spain “to meet a spiritual leader”, which raised concerns for her well-being.

She was taken home and despite appearing mentally ill, she was left alone by the Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust crisis team.

Ms Danks was last captured by CCTV turning onto the High Street in Marske and heading towards the seafront at 12.15am on May 23.

The Teessider – who ran the popular Pet Care Solutions business – had previously been diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder, depression, anxiety and suffered from paranoid thoughts.



Tributes were paid to Alison Danks
Tributes have been paid to Alison Danks after her tragic death

The inquest heard how Ms Danks was under an intensive home plan with the team which included increasing her medication and support phone calls.

Her ex-husband Graeme Danks attended the inquest and said he believed she should not have been left alone after trying to board the Navy ship.

He told the hearing: “I don’t think that’s good enough, she shouldn’t have been left.

“Why did the crisis team only assess one incident? They should have considered other things instead of just sticking to a narrow picture.”

Jane O’Neil, adult crisis services manager for TEWV in Teesside, told the inquest there were ‘lapses in Alison’s care’ and said plans were in place to ensure a better treatment.

Elspeth Devanney, Acting Director of Teesside Operations at Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, added: “Our thoughts are with Alison’s family and friends during this incredibly sad time.

“We have completed a full review of Alison’s care and have taken action to address the concerns that have been raised.”

Concluding the inquest, Ms Bailey said: “Alison was a woman who struggled with her mental health. She received a lot of support from her former husband and family and a lot of support from friends and neighbours. It is clear that mental health services have been trying to help Alisson.

“I recognize that she suffered from the loss of her father and the breakdown of her marriage. Unfortunately, she was also a woman who was not always compliant with medication.

“She turned to mental health services for help, but it should be noted that there were mistakes and lapses in some supports. However, I am reassured that the trust recognizes the lapses and mistakes and if such a situation were to happen again, the approach would be different and further questions would be asked.”

Recording a narrative conclusion, Ms Bailey said Ms Danks had entered the sea and drowned.

She said her intent and thought process at the time were not known and there was no evidence of third party involvement.

Help lines and support groups

The NHS Choices website lists the following helplines and support networks that people can talk to.

  • Samaritans (116,123 in the UK and Ireland) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write how you feel or are worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at jo@samaritans.org.
  • Childline (0800 1111) operates a helpline for children and young people in the UK. Calls are free and the number will not appear on your phone bill.
  • PAPYRUS (0800 068 41 41) is a voluntary association which supports adolescents and young adults who feel suicidal.
  • Mind (0300 123 3393) is an England-based charity that provides advice and support to empower anyone with a mental health problem. They campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding.
  • Students Against Depression is a website for students who are depressed, in a low mood, or have suicidal thoughts.
  • Bullying UK is a website for children and adults who are victims of bullying.

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