Teenager killed himself after stealing £8k from his mother to fund shopping addiction

March 25, 2014 | by | 0 Comments
James Hammonds, 19, killed himself after becoming addicted to online shopping

James Hammonds, 19, killed himself after becoming addicted to online shopping

A teenager killed himself after stealing thousands of pounds from his mother to feed his addiction – to SHOPPING, an inquest heard.

James Hammonds, 19, struggled with depression and obsessions – including compulsive shopping disorder – since the death of his father.

During a ten-week spending spree the shop assistant secretly transferred £7,780 from his mother Elizabeth’s bank account to buy clothes online and fund nights out.

But when she confronted him and demanded he get help, James threatened to kill himself and days later jumped from a bridge after a night out with pals.

Mum Elizabeth Hammonds told the inquest: “It was when he was at college I noticed James was depressed.

“He was struggling to get out of bed.

“He displayed obsessive behaviour – cleaning and often throwing things away having recently bought them.

“The £6,000 he got in inheritance, he just blew the lot.

“He had a shopping addiction and this was where a large sum of money was spent.

“I was shocked [when I realised he had taken the money] and I thought it was his compulsive shopping disorder.”

Ms Hammonds, of Eastville, Bristol, discovered James had been stealing money since April 2013 while he was on holiday in Magaluf, Spain, in June.

She confronted him the day after he returned and told him if he did not get help she would go to police.

James, who lived with his mother, confessed that he was “seriously depressed” and thinking about killing himself, prompting her to call the family GP.

Dr Loveday concluded he was “acutely suicidal” and asked Bristol Intensive Team to visit him within four hours.

But the mental health workers were content to speak to James and his mum on the phone and arrange future meetings.

He was prescribed antidepressants and referred a number of emergency mental health workers, including nurse Ciaran Purceil.

Mr Purceil said the teen’s money worries were a primary contributor to his low mood – along with the problematic relationship with his mum and the death of his father Peter from a blood clot in 2008.

He said: “I referred to his response to difficult situations, for example having to repay the significant sum of money. In that situation his initial response had been the only way out of this would be ending my life.

“I would say it was one of the key concerns.”

On the night of his death, James visited bars and night clubs in Bristol with pals Sunil Pandya and Charlie Cooper, before they parted ways after 2am on June 29.

CCTV caught James stumbling along Clifton Suspension Bridge before jumping off around 2.30am.

His mother – who had been working a night shift – was woken at 1pm the next day by friends worried about messages James had posted on Facebook.

She said: “They were words to the effect of ‘I don’t want anyone to feel responsible for what I have done’ and ‘I just want to go to sleep for a long time.”

She reported him missing and his body was found on July 4.

Recording a verdict of suicide due to multiple injuries, Dr Peter Harrowing said: “I put it to Dr Sterling [a senior mental health nurse] there were a number of stresses in his life.

“She identified particularly her concerns of his use of alcohol and the – I think significant – issue in relation to the loss of money from his mother’s account.

“I consider that loss of money played a significant impact on him. The express concern of how that money was to be repaid.”

He added: “I consider that James did take a deliberate act. I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that James knew what he was doing and understood the action he took and moreover knew the consequences of this action would be his death.”

During the inquest James’ family questioned the number of different health workers he saw – at least four different people – and a confusion over who his key worker was.

They also criticised the fact James was assessed on the phone by the mental health team despite the fact his doctor had requested a visit within four hours.

They suggested a system should be put in place to check patients have enrolled on the voluntary help programmes.

But Dr Harrowing said the phone call assessment was “appropriate in this case” and that James’ care was “not compromised as a consequence” of the confusion over his key worker.

For confidential support call the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90, visit a local Samaritans branch or visit www.samaritans.org.

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