Man drowned in lake in woods behind hospital

A PATIENT who discharged himself from the Conquest Hospital was found dead in a lake five days later, an inquest heard this week.

Gary Baker, 47, of Norman Road, St Leonards, had been at the hospital following an operation. He was stabbed in the chest a few days before and had to have his spleen removed.

Mr Baker was a patient at the High Dependency Unit in De Cham ward and went missing on April 25 last year after discharging himself. Prior to that he had spent six days in intensive care on a ventilator. His body was discovered by a dog walker in the swampy lake in woodland behind the Conquest on April 30 last year.

Mr Baker’s mother Denise, who visited him several times in hospital, said her son developed a chest infection and the lower part of his lungs collapsed after the operation, meaning he was very weak.

She said: “I visited him on April 25 and he had been taken off the ventilator. He was really confused. Later that evening a nurse rang me up saying the hospital had lost Gary.”

At Tuesday’s inquest, Dr Nicholas McNeillis, ITU consultant, said: “I had a specific conversation with Mr Baker telling him not to discharge himself.” Tara Fisher, nursing sister at De Cham ward, said Mr Baker disappeared just after 7pm. She said: “We immediately searched the ward, contacted the site manager and Mr Baker’s family, as well as security.”

Clive Wood, a porter at the Conquest, said: “I saw Mr Baker on the stairwell near the main entrance. He was wearing tracksuit bottoms and a jacket and had a hospital gown underneath. He stopped me, asking me to get him a taxi. I said I thought he wasn’t well enough, as he was gaunt, pale and quite laboured. He had trouble climbing stairs. I advised him to go back to the ward.”

Witnesses said Mr Baker was seen walking near Spire Sussex Hospital on The Ridge. Detective inspector Rob Morland said he believed Mr Baker ‘misjudged’ the depth of the lake and because of his weakened state collapsed and fell in and drowned. At the end of the inquest coroner Alan Craze concluded with a verdict of death by misadventure.