A 14-year-old boy thrown out of class for refusing to take his hoodie off was later found hanging from a tree near his school reception, his mum says.
Derek Brundrett wandered around the school in Pembrokeshire, Wales, for nearly an hour before taking his own life, according to his grieving mother, Kristina Wray.
He was discovered hanged by a pal who had gone to look for him.
With his body facing the other way, his friend had initially thought he was joking around. But when he realised he wasn’t, he ran to get help, Wales Online reports.
Kristina, who was on her way home when she received a phone call from police, discovered the devastating news her son had died after officers visited her home.
In disbelief, she went upstairs to pray.
“I actually prayed – for the first time in my whole life I prayed that I would have the strength to carry on. Not for me, but for my other two boys,” she recalled.
“I’ve never had a feeling like it; it was like someone had ripped my heart out. I remember being upstairs and thinking I was going to die right there and then from a broken heart.”
It’s a moment that has stayed with her since, and she will never be able to forget.
An inquest into Derek’s death in December 2013 is underway.
A spokesman for Pembrokeshire council said a child’s death “is a matter of great concern and sadness no matter what the circumstances in which it occurred”.
He added that the council is awaiting the outcome of the inquest.
Kristina had known her son was having difficulties.
His behaviour had become increasingly erratic in the last few years.
A “good little boy”, the mum said something changed in Derek when he was 12.
His behaviour reportedly deteriorated to the point where she could no longer cope with his loud and, at times, violent outbursts.
There were evenings where he could be enjoying dinner with his mum one minute, but his plate and the food on it would fly across the room the next.
Kristina, exhausted by her efforts to control her son, had him put into foster care.
The youngster was also taken to the doctor to get help, and referrals were made for mental health treatment due to concerns for his welfare.
“When he turned 12 he totally changed,” said Kristina, flicking through a treasured photo album of her beloved son, who was the oldest of three boys.
“He became aggressive and I just couldn’t handle him anymore. In 2011 I phoned social services because I didn’t know where else to go.”
Derek went into care and started to attend the Pupil Referral Unit in Neyland, a learning centre designed for young people with more complex needs.
Kristina hoped that he would get the care and attention he needed, but his behaviour reportedly continued to cause alarm.
One day, she said, he climbed onto the roof of the building at the referral unit.
“He wasn’t happy,” says Kristina.
“He wanted to come home to live with me and finally he did in September 2013.
“I knew he wasn’t better but he wanted to be at home, but I was very concerned for his mental health.
“The sad thing is he was so sorry for the way he was behaving. He would tell me he was sorry for the way he was, and how he couldn’t control it.
“He would have fits of rage over the smallest and stupidest things.
“But he wanted to go back to Pembroke School, so it was agreed that he would go back a year. But, within a month I was called in because of his behaviour and he was warned that he could be sent back to the referral unit.”
It was around this time that an incident at home led to Derek being put back into care.
He had argued with one of his brothers and Kristina had tried to separate them.
“I tried to get in between them on the stairs and I ended up being arrested by police,” she recalled.
In December 2013, Derek was back in care and his mother was becoming increasingly worried about his mental state.
On the evening of December 11, he phoned her.
“He was deeply unhappy,” said Kristina.
“I didn’t sleep a wink that night. I actually slept next to my two other boys because I could just feel that something was very wrong.
“The following morning at around 8.30am I called the school, trying to get someone to pass a message onto his social worker to say that Derek was really unhappy.
“He would hide it very well at times, he would seem fine. But I called the school and asked to speak to the head of year, and I spoke to the council.
“Derek was in a really bad way and was really unhappy.”
The mum reportedly spoke to a teacher at the school via phone at around 11.15am on the morning of December 12.
She hoped everything would be OK, and that Derek would be collected from school by his foster carers as normal at the end of the day.
Tragically, that never happened. The schoolboy was found hanging from the tree by his friend, a few yards away from reception.
A short time earlier, he had been thrown out of a science class due to his behaviour.
He had refused to remove a hoodie that he was wearing and was told to leave the classroom.
“He was wearing a non-school-uniform hoodie,” his mum said.
“In order to practise, you’ve got to take your hoodie off – understandable – but Derek didn’t want to do that.”
She added that her son was then sent down to the referral unit, but ended up wandering around the school alone for almost an hour.
“You can clearly see him on camera for nearly an hour just wandering around,” she said.
Derek then entered an area popular with students known as ‘The Circle’.
At around 1.30pm, his friend went to look for him – and discovered his body.
“I was on my way home when the police phoned,” said Kristina.
“They said they needed to speak to me.
“When they came round, I asked them to come in to the house. I thought ‘Oh no, what’s Derek done now? What’s he been up to at school?’
“Then they told me that he had died. I could not believe it, I actually didn’t believe it.”
The mum’s anguish was soon joined by another emotion: anger.
“I was straight on the phone to social services to ask ‘What have you done to my son? You’ve let him down’,” she recalled.
“If they had spoken with him the night before like I did they would have realised that something like this could happen.”
Next month will mark the fifth anniversary of Derek’s death.
Kristina is still waiting for answers, with the inquest yet to be concluded.
It is hoped an outcome will be revealed at a hearing in the new year, with the mum saying: “I’ve been told I’ll be notified by e-mail before Christmas.”
At a previous inquest hearing, the head of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services at Hywel Dda Health Board said the system had been inadequate but that improvements had since been made.
She said they would have probably “taken him on referral and made an assessment” if they had known about Derek’s behaviour. He had threatened suicide before, he had climbed onto the roof of a building, and he had cut himself.
A child psychiatrist also told the inquest: “I find it difficult to understand how any referral that contains any mention of self-harm was not flagged as urgent.
“A therapist raised concerns about Derek’s thoughts of self-harm and suicidal intent on several occasions. There are very real indications that a psychiatric assessment should have been taken.”
Kristina has started a petition calling for what is known as an Article 2 inquest – an enhanced inquest held in cases where the state or ‘its agents’ have ‘failed to protect the deceased against a human threat or other risk’.
What the mum really wants, after all this time, is answers, and for someone to say that something more could have been done.
Throughout Derek’s period of erratic behaviour, she claims he was never diagnosed with any condition, despite visits to the GP.
In total, he had seven different social workers – and Kristina claims the school should have done more on that day to look after him.
“It’s five years later and nobody has been held accountable for my son’s death,” she said.
“So, this could happen again to somebody else who’s going through the same thing. He needed help and there are other people who need help.
“I just want someone to say they’re sorry. I’m convinced that Derek did what he did for attention; I’m convinced that he didn’t mean to kill himself. The branch of the tree wasn’t that high off the ground, to me that says he wanted to be found alive.
“He thought he was going to be found by someone who would then realise what he was going through at that time.
“He had cut himself the day before. He thought someone would find him in time, but they didn’t. He was crying for help.”
A Pembrokeshire council spokesman said: “The death of a child is a matter of great concern and sadness no matter what the circumstances in which it occurred.
“The coroner’s inquest into Derek Brundrett’s death is still ongoing and we are awaiting the outcome.
“It is therefore inappropriate to comment further.”
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