Support worker tells court of deep regret after failing to report missing teen Brighton News

A SUPPORT worker has expressed deep regret for not calling the police after a 17-year-old girl she was caring for went missing and was later found dead.

Natasha West was visibly shaking as she told the inquest into Sophie Read’s death that she worked nights at Ownlife in Brighton on February 24, the night the teenager disappeared.

“I would like to tell the court that I should have reported [Sophie] reported missing to police as she had not returned by midnight,’ Miss West said.

The inquest found that Sophie died on February 25, 2020, after taking a cocktail of alcohol, heroin and cocaine after a night in an Airbnb apartment in St Aubyns, Hove.

Sophie, from Worthing, was placed in Ownlife by West Sussex County Council and was subject to a 11pm curfew and an enhanced safety plan after periods of self-harm and alcohol abuse.

The court heard the teenager had disappeared seven times since arriving at the home on January 27.

“She was quite hard to get to know at first, but I got on really well with her in the end,” said Miss West, who no longer works for Ownlife. “She was full of life.

At around 2:30 p.m. on the afternoon of February 24, Sophie spoke to her grandfather and arranged to stay at his house as she had a court appearance the next day, which he was to attend with her. This night was organized in the presence of Gary Lockwood, manager at Ownlife.

In fact, the 17-year-old, who had a history of mental health issues and was described in court as “extremely vulnerable and complex”, spent the night at the Airbnb apartment with her boyfriend Reis Forde, 26, after arranging to meet him via Snapchat messages during the day.

The court heard Sophie’s grandfather Peter Reeve spoke to Miss West at 12.15pm on February 25 and told her his granddaughter was not at home but was staying with a friend .

At that time, the court heard that Ownlife should have contacted the police.

Miss West told the court she tried to contact the teenager by phone after the call with Mr Reeve, but there was no response.

She added: “I just thought she would come back like all the other times she disappeared.”

Ownlife support workers receive training to follow required protocols when a young person in their care notifies staff that they are staying with a relative or friend, the court heard.

Mr Lockwood told the coroner that ‘unfortunately’ Miss West did not follow the correct procedure.

“The police should have been notified of Sophie’s disappearance,” Mr Lockwood said.

READ MORE: A teenager died after taking a cocktail of alcohol, heroin and cocaine

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This notice was published: 2022-03-22 06:01:00

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