Inquest told of carer's concern over James Hughes's weight loss
Dec 16 2008 By Rebekah Oruye
A former carer of James Hughes told an inquest hearing how she lost contact with the disabled Redditch man after raising concerns over his dramatic weight loss last year.
The inquest at Worcestershire Coroners Court heard how James, 22, died and was later found bundled into a suitcase in his family back garden in Loxely Close Redditch.
Jane Cotterill worked as a personal carer giving respite care to clients at the Churchview Housing in the Community and had known James for four years. She told the court in Stourport-on-Severn: “I loved to take James out, he was my favourite because he was so young and vulnerable. He was a lovely boy.”
But, she explained how once while she washed and changed James in September 2007, she noticed he had lost an extreme amount of weight. “I told my manager to come and have a look at him because his body weight loss was dramatic. He’d become so thin, although it was a gradual change.”
Ms Cotterill told the court she reported the incident to her manager John Pitman, who contacted James’ mother Heather Wardle and the social services.
The court heard how the reported weight loss was not received well by Wardle. Ms Cotterill said: “Heather was annoyed with John, that he had inferred she was a bad mother because of James’ weight loss.
“I rang Heather every Sunday as usual after that but she always had a reason why James could not come out with me. I asked her if I’d done something that made her not want James to come out with me, she said ‘no, not at all’.”
Eventually, Ms Cotterill said on the advice of her manager, she stopped contacting Wardle and was told to “take another client out.”
When asked by deputy coroner for Worcestershire if she thought the excuses were plausible, Ms Cotterill answered: “They were believable.”
Reasons given by Wardle included James being with his father, Paul Hughes, unwell, or staying with relatives in Cornwall.
Ms Cotterill described a visit to the family home last Christmas to drop off a present for James as “unusual” because she was not let into the house.
“Looking back now it was strange," she said. "Heather normally let’s me in, but that time she stepped out and closed the door behind her.”
Her last conversation with Wardle was in March, a few weeks before both mother and son were discovered dead.
Ms Cotterill, who emigrated to Canada in June, described Wardle as a “lovely” mother who was always happy and said she had no concerns over her parenting skills.
The hearing continues.