Family call for care home inquiry after retired Met police officer's death at Holborn Viaduct
PUBLISHED: 18:00 22 February 2017
The shocked family of retired Scotland Yard officer Brenda Khan who plunged 40ft to her death from Holborn Viaduct are calling for an inquiry into why she was able to walk out of her care home 30 minutes before, without being checked.
The 73-year-old former Met Police superintendant had moved into Pat Shaw House in London’s East End after treatment at Mile End Hospital for a bipolar disorder and was known to suffer deep depression.
She slipped out unnoticed from the premises in Globe Road, Stepney Green, after her Saturday evening tea on February 4 and took a bus to Holborn.
A note was left in her room, which said: “I am sorry Tracy and Loretta. I am taking you both, in spirit, with me, forever, Your Aunt—Brenda. Sat pm.”
A horrified ambulance crew passing by on another call witnessed her plunging from Holborn Viaduct onto Farringdon Street. They battled for an hour to try and save her life, but Brenda died at the scene.
“We are all shocked,” her niece Loretta Oscislawski tells tomorrow’s East London Advertiser.
“I never thought she would have done anything like that. I pleaded with her over the phone not to do anything.”
Brenda was brought up in Mile End, the youngest of 14 children, educated at Cephus Secondary School and Pitman’s College, who devoted her life to her police career and later to looking after her dying mother. She never married.
Her mum’s death in 1993 left her in depression and isolation, her family believe.
Loretta’s son Jed Khan Warsop, Brenda’s great nephew, said: “The care home didn’t question her about where she was going that Saturday evening.
“I expect they allow their independence, but there’s a difference when they knew she had depression and was going through a tough time.
“She may have seemed fine, but we want them to investigate.
“I would like to pursue an investigation into the care they gave, although we don’t hold the manager personally responsible for what happened.”
Brenda’s bouts of depression were intermittent with periods of joy when she would often entertain relatives in her self-furnished suite at the care home. She had shares in a race horse and regularly loved taking family members to Stepney city farm.
But there was no security camera or anyone around when Brenda calmly walked out of the care home, according to niece Loretta.
Gateway Sheltered Housing, which runs both Pat Shaw and nearby Peter Shore care homes, would not comment on the points raised by her relatives when the Advertiser contacted them on Monday, but did respond with a message of condolence to the family.
The message said: “Gateway was deeply saddened to hear about the death of Brenda Khan. Our thoughts and condolences are with the family.”
There was praise, however, for the London Ambulance Service. Jed told the paper: “They tried their best for an hour to save her and we a grateful for that.”
Both care homes were on a list for improvements after Care Quality Commission inspections in 2015.
Pat Shaw was “not safe in all areas”, the Commission found. Staffing levels “did not address mental health needs”.
Gateway’s director Jane Ball described the inspection at the time as “a journey of improvement”, assuring that steps were under way.
Dietary needs were not always met, the Commission said, with the service “not effective” in eating and drinking requirements.
Brenda’s niece Loretta revealed this week: “They kept giving her the wrong food and didn’t seem to understand what she wanted.”
Brenda Khan’s death is not being treated as suspicious, City of London Police said. An inquest is due at the City Coroner’s Court and her funeral is planned at City of London Crematorium in Manor Park.