Polmont teenager ‘saw devil’s face’ before suicide attempt

Liam Kerr died in hospital less than a week after attempting to take his own life

A teenage inmate told a young offenders’ institution nurse he had “seen the face of the devil under his bed” before his death, a court heard.

Liam Kerr was self-harming and attempted suicide at Polmont YOI, near Falkirk, in January 2017.

The 19-year-old, from Paisley, died in hospital less than a week later.

The former mental health nursing team leader told a fatal accident inquiry that warders were “genuinely worried” about him.

Catherine Warner, 54, now a police nurse, said the mental health team had been requested to “review” Mr Kerr on 6 January, 2017, after he set fire to his cell.

The incident happened in the Dunedin hall – a segregation unit.

She confirmed that records made at the time read that Mr Kerr had “requested hot water to drink, and when he didn’t get it, felt he was being treated as a daftie, so set fire to his cell”.

The nursing notes continued: “Seen in cell in the company of Dunedin staff, Liam stated that he was unhappy with the way he was treated. Did acknowledge he should not have set fire, but said ‘that’s what happens when they make me angry’.

“[He] stated that he did hear voices, sometimes when he was angry. Stated they [the voices] told him whether people were bad or good.

“Also stated that he saw the face of the Devil under his bed and voices and a vision encouraging him to start the fire.”

According to the notes, Mr Kerr told nursing staff he did not hear the voices at all times, but did hear them daily.

He told them his mental health was “OK” and he could “manage it” and refused to consider medication at that time.

Drug-induced psychosis

The teenager, who was on remand for allegedly robbing a sandwich shop, was seen that same day by NHS consultant psychiatrist Dr Rosa Serrano, of the Forth Valley Royal Hospital.

Ms Warner said: “He seemed quite sensible to me. He engaged with us.

“He didn’t present as psychotic. He was restless, but he was aware, he was engaging. There was no evidence of psychosis at that point. He denied self harm, suicidal thoughts.”

She said that Dr Serrano’s plan was that she would see Liam the following week, and meanwhile the mental health team would monitor him.

HMYOI PolmontMr Kerr was seen by a psychiatrist and a psychologist at Polmont

The inquiry heard that Liam had been previously diagnosed as suffering from drug-induced psychosis and had “complex” mental health needs.

Mrs Warner said such psychosis could re-occur, even when the sufferer was no longer taking the drugs that had brought it on.

Mr Kerr had been in the facility for nearly eight weeks before he attempted to take his own life hours after being seen again by Dr Serrano on 13 January.

Dr Serrano had ruled out an immediate transfer to a psychiatric ward. Mr Kerr died in hospital six days later.

Earlier, warder Brian Ward, a prison officer at Polmont for 21 years, said officers in Dunedin hall had been “totally disheartened” by the feedback they got from mental health services over the teenager.

The inquiry will continue in October.


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