Lack of obesity plan ‘led to 20-year-old Harry’s death’

The parents of a young autistic man who died of a heart attack linked to his weight problem say they feel “let down” by the doctors and services which failed to prevent the tragedy.

Harry Horne-Roberts, of Archway, was just 20 and weighed 22st when he died at Hillgreen Care Home in Wood Green.

Days before he had been his usual self, walking with his parents in Epping Forest. But Harry was found face-down in his room on December 16, 2009, having had a heart attack linked to his morbid obesity, North London Coroner’s Court was told.

He had lost and regained three stones in just 15 months in care. Coroner Dr Andrew Walker said the lack of a weight-loss programme led by a qualified dietician had “caused his death” despite the care home “diligently” trying to help him slim.

Harry, a keen artist and film-maker, had been put into the care home by parents Jennifer Horne-Roberts and Keith Roberts in a bid to increase his independence.


At the hearing last week, his parents said they had been kept in the dark about a strong anti-psychotic drug their son was receiving called chloropromazine, and believe it contributed to his death – although this was ruled out by cardiologist Dr Christopher Piers Clifford.

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The couple were locked out of his treatment – with “catastrophic consequences”, they said – only learning he was on the drug when a carer let it slip nine months before he died. They wrote four letters to Harry’s psychiatrist but all went unanswered, the court heard.

Psychiatrist Dr Sujeet Jaydeokar said: “With hindsight it would have been better if we had copied you into the letters. We have now changed our practice and now copy all letters to family members.”

Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health Trust, which was responsible for his care, also accepted it failed to implement a dietician-led weight-loss programme for Harry, and has since changed its practices.

Giving a narrative verdict, Dr Walker said: “What he [Harry] needed was a programme to reduce his morbid obesity. If he had that, he might have had a chance.”

Dr Walker added: “The absence of a dietician-led programme to reduce his morbid obesity caused his death.”