6 May 2022

Media release by Irwin Mitchell, reposted for record

The family of a man who died while detained in a mental health hospital have spoken of their hope that an inquest will provide them with answers regarding his death.

Alex Nova, previously known as Simon Cohen, was pronounced dead by paramedics around two hours after he was found unwell by staff at The Priory Group run Kneesworth House Hospital near Royston in Cambridgeshire.

Simon had changed his name by deed poll to Alex Nova in 2016 but he was still known as Simon to family and friends.

He had been admitted to the hospital run by The Priory Group 11 days before his death. The 29-year-old, from Bushey, Hertfordshire, had been detained under the Mental Health Act after being diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and a behavioural disorder.

Simon was admitted to the Wortham Ward at Kneesworth House Hospital on 16 June, 2017, from a NHS hospital. The referral had been made by the NHS.

Following Simon’s death, his family, including mum Nozalie Shuter, instructed expert public law and human rights lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to help secure answers and support them through the inquest process.

Approaching five years after Simon’s death, an inquest is now due to be held.

Sophie Farrah, the specialist public law and human rights lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing the family, said: “Nearly five years on Nozalie and the rest of Simon’s family remain devastated at his death and the circumstances surrounding it.

“Understandably they have a number of concerns about the events surrounding Simon’s death and whether more could have been done to help him.

“Not knowing all of the facts about what happened to Simon has made trying to grieve for him all the harder. While nothing can make up for the hurt and pain the family are going through, the inquest is a major milestone in being able to provide Simon’s loved ones with the vital answers they deserve.

“People with mental health problems are some of society’s most vulnerable and it’s vital that they receive the best level of care at all times. If during the course of the hearing any care issues are identified it’s imperative lessons are learned to improve patient safety.”

At around 11.05am on 27 June, 2017, Simon went outside to have a cigarette and was seen with other patients and staff.

At about 2.30pm a fellow patient reported Simon was unwell. Staff declared a medical emergency and an ambulance was called at 3.05pm.

However, despite attempts to resuscitate him Simon sadly died just after 4.40pm.

Nozalie said: “It’s almost impossible to find the words to describe the hurt and pain our family feel following Simon’s death. He was loved by all his family and there’s not a day goes by that we don’t miss him and think about him.

“Simon had struggled with mental illness and we hoped that going into hospital would allow him to receive the care he needed.

“On the day we were told he’d died our lives changed forever. It’s coming up to five years since that day and while time has moved on for people, it’s stood still for our family. Trying to come to terms with his death has been made all the harder because of the many unanswered questions we have about what happened to Simon.

“I know the inquest and listening to the evidence as to why Simon died is going to be incredibly traumatic, but it’s something I need to do to honour his memory.”

An inquest into Simon’s death is due to start at Huntingdon Town Hall on Monday, 9 May, and is expected to last five days.


Notes to Editors

For further information and pictures please contact the Irwin Mitchell press office on 0114 274 4666.