A vulnerable young woman who was beaten up and tortured during a horrific attack in her own flat later killed herself. An inquest heard tragic Leah Ratheram, 20, was found hanged in woodland on October 7 last year.
She had been beaten up after neighbour Lucy Regan and her boyfriend Omaij Christie forced their way into her flat in Kings Heath on February 2.
Leah, who suffered already suffered from Autism, Aspergers Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome before the assault, was punched by Regan, knocked over and hit with a dog lead as she tried to protect herself.
A previous court hearing was told how vinegar was poured over her wounds to make them sting.
Leah’s friend Paul James-Lyons, who is listed as the second victim of the attack, fell from her third floor balcony as he tried to escape when he was also attacked by Christie with the dog lead. Court documents state that Christie lashed out at his left wrist as the 24-year-old clung onto the railings for dear life. He suffered a fractured wrist and a severe fractured dislocation of his right hip, which the court heard were “permanent and serious” disabilities.
The cause of the feud was not clear. However, it was reported that Ratheram taunted Christie when as she passed below her apartment. The defendant then recruited her boyfriend , Christie, and they both barged into the victim’s residence on the back of a pizza delivery.
Leah who was already vulnerable because of a variety of health issues, but the sadistic attack pushed her over the edge and she took her own life, the Coroner ruled.
Regan and Christie were both jailed for the attack.
A report by the Birmingham Mail highlighted ‘grave concerns’ about her mental health care, raised by Senior Coroner Louise Hunt, who ruled the cause of Rotherham’s death a suicide.
Leah experienced extreme mood swings, had a history of self-harming and had also been a victim of domestic violence.
She was under the care of Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Trust, and then Forward Thinking Birmingham, and was living at Manningford Care Home in Druids Heath, at the time she died.
Foster parents, Marilyn and Steven Ratheram, described her as someone with a ‘great sense of humour.’
“She loved everyone in her own way and she was a great artist,” said Steven.
“But she struggled with accepting her problems. One minute she was happy, the next she was very sad.”
They said Leah became involved with an older man who would beat her up, and was then the victim of the brutal attack at her apartment.
Shortly before her death, she had found a new boyfriend who ‘made her very happy’, her foster father said.
The couple said they often struggled to get their foster daughter the appropriate care for her mental health needs, he added.
Her care providers, Manningford Care Home become increasingly concerned for Leah after she developed new ways of harming herself. The home had contacted the mental health team because they did not feel the level of care they could provide was sufficient any longer.
It was while Leah was being assessed that her care was being transferred to the newly set up mental health organisation, Forward Thinking Birmingham.
A doctor and representative from the group initially visited the care home to assess Leah following attempts to hang herself.
Disturbingly, Care home staff were under the impression further assessments were due to be made but the visit was not followed up by Forward Thinking, the inquest heard.
The coroner said while she did not believe anything could have been done any differently to prevent the death of Leah Ratheram, she did have ‘concerns’ about the lack of continuity in her care and called for a review of the way patients are assessed when they are being considered for sectioning under the Mental Health Act.
The coroner said: “It seems to me that Leah has fallen between two stools here. There has been a change over in care, during a time where Leah was being assessed.
“There was an opportunity for Leah to be re-assessed and this did not happen. We cannot then know what would have been the outcome of this for Leah, had this taken place.
“Leah had very complex needs and she had a very difficult life. She could not cope and she decided to take her own life.
“But I do have concerns that there seemed confusion as to who was actually providing the care for Leah, at a time she needed it most.
“In my view, there was critical information about Leah that other staff were not aware of.
“There did seem to be a lack of continuity in her care and I think these concerns need to be raised.”