Popular police sergeant hanged himself at Wrexham psychiatric unit

Reporter:

Staff reporter (Leader Live)

A police officer who hanged himself while a patient in a psychiatric unit could not understand why he was depressed because he felt he had so much going for him.

But clinical psychologist Dr Emma Evans told an inquest Sgt Lee Johnson spoke quite openly to her about his mother’s suicide, his own traumatic childhood, “horrible experiences” he had had in the RAF and police and the fact that he was under investigation for alleged misconduct.

However, the father-of-two was reluctant to discuss his serious drink problem, even though when under the influence of alcohol he often felt suicidal.

The hearing in Ruthin was told Sgt Johnson, 45, had twice spoken of hanging himself from the banister of his home in Cilcain Road, Pantymwyn, near Mold.

It was after the second occasion in December 2015 that he was admitted as a voluntary patient to the Heddfan Unit at Wrexham Maelor Hospital. It was there that he hanged himself on February 13, 2016.

Sgt Johnson, who was serving in the West Mercia force based in Oswestry, was a popular officer, well-known for his Twitter account in which he mixed police appeals with snippets of humour.

His wife Barbara, a police officer in the North Wales force, described him as “a very focused, kind person” who struggled to cope with the stresses of his job.

He first sought advice from a GP about three or four years ago but early in 2015 the problem returned and it became progressively worse.

Mrs Johnson said when he felt depressed he turned to alcohol and that made him suicidal.

“I felt we needed to do something because I feared that something bad was going to happen,” she said.

Having had dealings with Heddfan through their jobs, hospital was regarded as “the final straw” but her husband seemed keen to go along with anything which would help him.

“I thought it was a positive step because it was a place of safety,” she said.

Mrs Johnson told the inquest her husband felt safe in the unit but he told her and consultant psychiatrist Dr Nafisa Hussein that on occasions he had thought of throwing himself in front of a car or train.

Dr Hussein described him as “a model patient”, adding: “He seemed quite happy to be in hospital and happy to engage with anything that would help him.

“He was very open about discussing harming himself.”

She said she was shocked to hear he had killed himself as he had told her he felt safe in hospital.

Dr Evans told the inquest she, too, felt he genuinely wanted to make changes for the better, but was concerned about his future both in and out of the force.

Her final session with Sgt Johnson was the day before he died, and she said: “It was clear to me it was not going to be resolved overnight.”

The hearing continues.

See full story in the Leader

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