Disabled artist Alison Lapper’s son, 19, died of an ‘accidental overdose’, coroner rules

The teenage son of disabled artist Alison Lapper died of an accidental overdose after several ‘missed opportunities’ to tackle his substance misuse, a coroner has ruled.

Parys Lapper, 19, – who appeared in BBC One’s A Child of Our Time – began smoking cannabis and drinking as child after being subjected to bullying over his mother’s disabilities.

However he became badly addicted to both illegal and prescription drugs and his mental health deteriorated as his life spiralled out of control.

For several years he was treated by both child and adult mental health services but could not overcome his addiction to drugs.

Shortly before he died he was discharged from treatment because he had refused address his substance misuse.

On Thursday, West Sussex coroner Penelope Schofield found Parys died from an accidental overdose of heroin and an anti-anxiety drug.

Miss Schofield said at West Sussex Coroners’ Court in Crawley that the case was ‘tragic’ but claimed there had been ‘missed opportunities’ to tackle his substance misuse. 

At the conclusion of the inquest his mother broke down in tears as she said her son had been failed by mental health teams and should ‘never have been discharged’ from their care before his death. 

Parys Lapper, the teenage son of disabled artist Alison Lapper, died of an accidental overdose after several 'missed opportunities' to tackle his substance misuse, a coroner has ruled

Parys Lapper, the teenage son of disabled artist Alison Lapper, died of an accidental overdose after several ‘missed opportunities’ to tackle his substance misuse, a coroner has ruled 

Parys, 19, - who appeared in BBC One's A Child of Our Time - began smoking cannabis and drinking as child after being subjected to bullying over his mother's disabilities. Pictured: Ms Lapper arriving at West Sussex Coroner's Court on Tuesday with her partner Simon Clift

Parys, 19, – who appeared in BBC One’s A Child of Our Time – began smoking cannabis and drinking as child after being subjected to bullying over his mother’s disabilities. Pictured: Ms Lapper arriving at West Sussex Coroner’s Court on Tuesday with her partner Simon Clift

She said one glaring fact that needed addressing to prevent future deaths was that substance misusers are able to obtain duplicate prescriptions of the same drugs from different sources.

The hearing was told Parys was able to source one strong anti-anxiety drug from illegal street dealers and his own GP.

But when his own GP tried to curtail the drugs he paid a private Harley Street consultant to prescribe the same drug without his own doctor knowing.

He was eventually discharged by the mental health services because he would not address his substance misuse.

But just two weeks later the teenager was found dead from a drugs overdose at the Wolsey Hotel in Worthing, West Sussex.

Miss Schofield said there had been several ‘missed opportunities’ to help Parys tackle his substance misuse.

Miss Schofield said: ‘It is clear to me this was an accidental overdose with no attempt to take his own life. 

Parys became badly addicted to both illegal and prescription drugs and his mental health deteriorated as his life spiralled out of control

Parys became badly addicted to both illegal and prescription drugs and his mental health deteriorated as his life spiralled out of control 

‘This is a tragic case of a young man who had lost his life to drugs.’

She said many people had tried to help him tackle his substance misuse along the way but he was not ready to be helped at that time.

Miss Schofield added: ‘Parys was a young man with complex mental health issues. 

‘From a young age he had started to develop an excessive use of illicit substances and prescribed medications.

‘He had been under the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services and transitioned to the Adult Mental Health Services.

‘Shortly before his death he had been discharged from the Adult Mental Health team as he had failed to engage with them.

‘At the time of his death he was under the care of a private psychiatrist but there was no active treatment or provision in place to address his misuse of prescribed medication or illicit substances.’

At the conclusion of the inquest, Miss Lapper broke down in tears and was comforted by her partner, Simon Clift.

Afterwards she said her ‘Miracle Millennium baby’ had been failed by mental health teams.

Miss Lapper, 55, an artist, who was born with no arms and shortened legs due to phocomelia, famously posed naked while heavily pregnant with Parys for a marble sculpture.

The sculpture by artist Marc Quinn later went on display on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square between 2005-2007.

Parys' family believe the troubled teenager was failed by mental health services in the run-up to his death and his mother previously told the inquest in Crawley, West Sussex she had very serious concerns over his treatment

Parys’ family believe the troubled teenager was failed by mental health services in the run-up to his death and his mother previously told the inquest in Crawley, West Sussex she had very serious concerns over his treatment 

She said: ‘It has been extremely painful listening to the many failings. Parys should never have been discharged from mental heath services shortly before he died.

‘I hope that no other family has to experience the loss of their child due to failings in mental health services. Parys was a wonderful, bright, talented son who will be greatly missed.’

The hearing was told Parys had been a normal, happy young boy who took care of his appearance and loved life.

However as he entered his teenage years his behaviour began to deteriorate and he was less social and happy.

She said severe bullying he had suffered in school had caused him to suffer from anxiety and depression.

He was diagnosed with a catalogue of conditions including depression, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and ADHD.

At the age of 17, Parys’s behaviour and mental health problems worsened and he was sectioned under the mental health act at Worthing Hospital. 

From there was moved to Chalkhill in Haywards Heath – a leading hospital in treating children and young people with mental health problems – where he received a programme of treatment.

The inquest was told he was then transferred to centre for young people with behavioural problems in Bognor Regis.

Miss Lapper said at an earlier hearing that she felt the placement was wrong as the main focus of the unit was to keep him room clean, shop and look after himself.

However Parys found it almost impossible to care for himself and his mother stepped in to help him.

Although he was attending appointments with a psychiatrist his condition continued to worsen.

Miss Lapper previously told the hearing: ‘He had suicidal thoughts because no one was listening to him.’

At the conclusion of the inquest his mother, Alison Lapper, broke down in tears and was comforted by her partner, Simon Clift. Pictured: Miss Lapper on Tuesday

At the conclusion of the inquest his mother, Alison Lapper, broke down in tears and was comforted by her partner, Simon Clift. Pictured: Miss Lapper on Tuesday

Miss Lapper, 55, an artist, who was born with no arms and shortened legs due to a condition called phocomelia, famously posed naked while heavily pregnant with Parys for a marble sculpture. The sculpture by artist Marc Quinn later went on display on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square between 2005-2007 (pictured)

Miss Lapper, 55, an artist, who was born with no arms and shortened legs due to a condition called phocomelia, famously posed naked while heavily pregnant with Parys for a marble sculpture. The sculpture by artist Marc Quinn later went on display on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square between 2005-2007 (pictured)

She said when Parys turned 18 she could no longer have any say into his medical treatment.

Miss Lapper said his behaviour became more and more erratic and she began to receive parcels of drugs at her home that her son had ordered from the internet.

Parys was found a place at a supported accommodation unit but he then moved in with a man called Terry he met on the Craigslist website.

The teenager would tell people Terry was his uncle but the hearing was told the pair had met on the website which linked people who wanted to offer sexual favours for drugs.

Miss Lapper said Parys was continually asking for money from her and also asked her to pay money into Terry’s bank account.

The inquest was told that when his NHS psychiatrist refused to hand him the schizophrenia medication he had requested he found a private psychiatrist and began a course of different drugs.

Parys was discharged from mental health services on July 25, 2019, and went to live in a temporary accommodation hotel in Worthing, West Sussex.

The teenager was found dead from a suspected accidental drug overdose at the Wolsey hotel 18 days later.

His psychiatrist Dr Arun Ravivarman of Sussex Partnership NHS Trust told the inquest he did not know whether had Parys not been discharged he would be alive.    

For confidential support call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit a local Samaritan’s branch.

Top Stories