A PONTYPOOL man died in a garage explosion while on leave from a mental health hospital, an inquest has heard.

Christopher Jones died in an explosion in the garage at his mother and step-father’s house on Coed Camlas in New Inn on July 22, 2019.

Mr Jones, 32, had been a patient at the Talygarn Unit at County Hospital, and had been permitted a two-hour period of unescorted leave from the ward on the day of his death.



Mr Jones’ mum, Kathie Jones, said she heard a “loud cracking sound”, and looked up to see the garage was on fire.

She said she thought she had left an electronic device switched on in the garage, and told Newport Coroner’s Court via a statement that she heard “a cry in pain”, which she initially thought was a passer-by hit by a part of the burning garage.

“Once I recovered my phone I saw I had missed a call from Talygarn. They said that Christopher had not returned from his leave.

“It was then I knew it was Christopher.”

Ms Jones said she was unaware that her son had been allowed unescorted leave from the ward at the time of his death.

Tony Jackson, who was a station manager for South Wales Fire and Rescue at the time, said the fire was started by a deliberate action – as there had been no gas supply to the garage and no electrical items had been plugged in.

Mr Jackson said they recovered a plastic container and a lighter from the garage.

Mr Jones was admitted to the Talygarn Unit on December 26, 2018, after he set a fire in the bathroom of the flat he was staying in in Pontypool.

He was moved to the Ty Skirrid ward in Abergavenny on March 4, but moved back to Talygarn in June after staff at Ty Skirrid discovered he had bought two packets of paracetamol while on supervised leave, and bought another two packets the following week.

Dr Ita Lyons, a consultant psychiatrist at Talygarn, told the court that Mr Jones had been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome in 2013, and schizophrenia in 2015.

“[His medication] was very important,” said Karen Addyman, Mr Jones’ community care co-ordinator. “It was the only thing that kept him stable.”

Dr Lyons told the court that Mr Jones had told her that he had wanted to take his own life “on many occasions.”

Ms Addyman said she was “surprised” Mr Jones had been allowed on unsupervised leave on the day of his death.

“The reason he was in hospital was because of setting the fire in the flat so believed he was still at that risk.”

Marcus Coates-Walker, representing the Jones family, said: “I think one of the family’s concerns is that Christopher was known to the service for a number of years. There was a gap in the service and it was not filled.”

Senior coroner for Gwent Caroline Saunders read out a statement from Gemma O’Brien, a consultant clinical psychologist, who said that staff “did not have the confidence” to complete suicide risk assessments.

“Suicide risk assessments are not being done as and when they should be,” she said.

Pathologist Dr Richard Jones recorded Mr Jones’ cause of death as exposure to fire and fire effects.

The inquest continues.