Woman died after walking out of Priory Hospital Arnold

Police are investigating the death of patient who was able to walk out of a mental health unit on Christmas Day.

Helen Tarry’s body was discovered on farmland on Boxing Day morning, a short distance from the Priory Hospital Arnold, Nottinghamshire, where she was being treated on a secure ward.

Her partner Howard Mather said she had left the hospital grounds during a fire alarm wearing just a body warmer, nightdress and slippers.

The hospital said it was investigating.

Nottinghamshire Police said the 52-year-old’s death was not being treated as suspicious but confirmed an investigation was under way.

The force said Ms Tarry was reported missing at 23.01 GMT on Christmas Day.

It said her body was found nine-and-a-half hours later on George’s Lane.

Mr Mather said Ms Tarry had been referred to the Priory in early December as an acute patient after suffering strong fear-based delusions and had been staying in its secure Bestwood Ward.

He told the BBC he had visited her on Christmas Day to give her a card and a present.

He said: “She was very upset.

“She kept saying ‘please get me out of here’ but I thought she was in the place where she would get the help she needed.”

Mr Mather, 52, said he had returned to the couple’s home in Carlton but received a call from the hospital later that night saying she was missing and a search was under way.

He said: “I went back to the hospital and when I got there, there was a member of staff having a fag outside.

“He told me patients quite frequently walk out but usually returned voluntarily or were found.

“A police officer was there and she told me staff were searching but there didn’t seem to be any urgency.

“I was told Helen was wearing just a body warmer, a night dress and slippers.

“It was freezing that night and I hated the thought of her being out there, frightened, alone and cold in the pitch black.”

He said he had joined the search of nearby woodland before again going home.

When he re-joined the search early the following morning he found police officers on nearby farmland.

They told him a body had been discovered which turned out to be Ms Tarry.

Mr Mather said he had been devastated by the death of Ms Tarry, who had worked in the children’s social care department at Nottinghamshire County Council.

He added: “Helen was in the care of the hospital’s secure ward, yet seems to seems to have walked out unseen and unsupervised.

“That should not have been allowed to happen.

“Helen should still be alive and the hospital has failed her.”

A Nottinghamshire Police spokesperson said: “Our thoughts are with this woman’s family and friends at this very difficult time.

“Officers are at the early stages of our investigation but the death is not being treated as suspicious.”

The hospital where Helen Tarry was a patient has been judged inadequate by the Care Quality Commission

A spokesperson for the hospital said: “We would like to reiterate our sincerest condolences to Helen’s family and friends for their loss.

“We are undertaking a full internal investigation following this sad incident and have been working fully and transparently with the coroner, and external agencies.”

A spokeswoman for the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said: “The CQC has been made aware of the sad death of a patient who was at Priory Hospital Arnold.

“Our condolences are with the person’s family and we continue to monitor the service closely to ensure people receive safe care.”

The CQC has recently published the findings of its latest inspection of Priory Arnold which judged it inadequate and raised concerns about patient safety.

An inquest into Ms Tarry’s death opened on Friday.

A post mortem has been held but no cause of death has yet been confirmed.