Inquest into death of man who fell from city car park begins

St Andrews Car Park is one of the Norwich car parks where prices are set for an increase.

St Andrew's car park in Norwich. - Credit: ©Archant Photographic 2010

The first day of an inquest into the death of a man who fell from a Norwich car park heard he had been admitted to a mental health hospital four months earlier.

Christopher Billham, 54, of Keswick, died in Duke Street on July 28, 2020, following an incident at St Andrew's car park in Norwich.

The betting shop manager's inquest opened in August 2020 and was reopened on Monday, October 4 by area coroner Yvonne Blake, with a jury present. His medical cause of death was given as multiple injuries.

A statement from his wife Sasha Billham, read out by the court on Monday, said that Mr Billham was a worrier who would "internalise problems".

It added: "He would not seek help unless absolutely necessary.

"He was a nice guy, who would help anyone."

She said her husband changed around Christmas 2019 and in January 2020 "started to obsess" about Covid-19.

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On March 19 she woke up to Mr Billlham hyperventilating and talking about people being killed because of Covid.

Following contact with his GP and a later incident, he was taken to Hellesdon Hospital, which is run by the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, and detained under the Mental Health Act from March 21 to April 8.

She said while in the hospital her husband's condition worsened and he did not take medication on several occasions.

Another statement read aloud shared Mrs Billham's concerns about treatment, which she said was raised with hospital staff amid her worry about an impending discharge.

Dr Hassan Bamigbola, locum consultant psychiatrist, said Mr Billham presented "psychotic features" and was preoccupied with Covid, which he said he took to an "irrational level".

He added: "He did not have full understanding of his mental state and had to accept intervention to address his mental health problems."

In the months after his discharge, Mrs Billham said her husband had been improving but then started to become introverted.

The incident on July 28 saw a heavy police presence in the city centre, and a negotiator called. Mrs Billham was also brought to the car park.

She said: "Chris seemed very unstable and the railing he was holding onto was really wet. He fell."

She said paramedics treated him for around 40 minutes before he was pronounced dead.

A jury is set to hear two weeks of evidence surrounding his death as in the inquest continues.