An inquest into the death of Daniel Bleaney will probe security at the Cowdy ward at Royal Darwin Hospital. PICTURE: supplied
An inquest into the death of Daniel Bleaney will probe security at the Cowdy ward at Royal Darwin Hospital. PICTURE: supplied

Troubled man fled ‘secure’ RDH ward before tragedy

A MUCH loved seafarer took his own life after escaping from the supposedly "secure" Cowdy ward at Royal Darwin Hospital, leaving behind a heartbroken family.

A coronial inquest into the death of Daniel Bleaney, 37, heard he died on the afternoon of 19 October 2018, ten hours after authorities involuntarily admitted him to the ward and while was under close watch.

Days earlier, Daniel had been plucked from the water nine hours out from Darwin after jumping from the Far Sword, the ship on which he was the Chief Mate, in the middle of a psychotic episode.

As the ship made its way into Darwin, with crew members constantly by his side, Daniel told his partner Sarah: "I jumped from the ship, God told me to do it and I jumped from the ship".

Counsel assisting the coroner Kelvin Currie said the inquest would focus why Daniel was not kept safe while detailed involuntarily.

A previous inquest has probed the escape of another man, Dean Jigili - also over the ward's courtyard fence - took his life at Bagot.

Top End Mental Health Service director of psychiatry Dr Rob Parker said Daniel's family were extremely distressed when they learnt of his death.

"The nurses said they had never heard such screaming," Dr Parker said.

"They expected him to be safe once he was admitted to Cowdy ward."

Dr Parker said the ward was not "totally secure".

"We're not a prison," he said.

An inquest into the death of Daniel Bleaney (pictured with his partner, Sarah) will probe security at the Cowdy ward at Royal Darwin Hospital. PICTURE: supplied
An inquest into the death of Daniel Bleaney (pictured with his partner, Sarah) will probe security at the Cowdy ward at Royal Darwin Hospital. PICTURE: supplied

Patients have to ask permission to leave the ward, the door to which are kept locked.

Dr Parker said there was pressure from the ward's community visitor to "open the doors and let people come and go freely".

Asked why he had previously described the ward as "closed" but not "secure", Dr Parker said: "I suppose it depends on the version of 'secure' … it's not a prison."

Coroner Greg Cavanagh said: "Why don't you make the fence higher, give it a pretty face so it's still therapeutic?"

In a statement, Daniel's mother Alison and sister, Emma, said he had a "huge heart and love for life".

"It remains unfathomable to us that he was kept safer at sea with his crew and ship mates, that he was in an inpatient psychiatric ward."

In a statement on behalf of Daniel's partner, Sarah and daughter, Amelia, lawyer Kirsten Van Der Wal said: "Daniel Bleaney was a much loved father, husband, brother and son and his passing has been extremely difficult for the family."