23rd February 2015


Torbay and South Devon Coroner’s Court, Council House Plymouth City Council Armada Way Plymouth PL1 2AA, 10 am, 24 February 2014, before HM Senior Coroner Ian Arrow.


The inquest into the death of Chang Somers, a 36-year old man from Plymouth, will begin on 24th February at Plymouth, Torbay and South Devon Coroner’s Court and will run until 2 March 2015. Mr Somers, also known as Valan Pitts, was a vulnerable man with mental health problems and learning difficulties who was found dead in August 2012.


The inquest is set to look into the events that led up to Mr Somers death, examining the actions of the various public authorities who had contact with him during July 2012, including Devon and Cornwall Police, South West Ambulance Service and community mental health services.


Mr Somers was found dead on 22 August 2012 in a garden in Paignton, Devon after being reported missing by his family on 31 July 2012. He was last seen on 25 July 2012. Prior to his death he had expressed concerns about his own mental health and his wish to be referred to a local psychiatric hospital. His family had requested he be assessed under section 3 of the Mental Health Act but this was never carried out.


As well as examining the failure of the authorities to respond to the request by the family that he be assessed under the Mental Health Act, the inquest will look at the handling of calls to Devon and Cornwall Police, from Mr Somers and from a witness concerned about him on 24 July 2012. The inquest will also examine the handling of a 999 call made on 25 July 2012 from a witness who reported that a man outside his house was taking tablets, near the garden where Mr Somers’ body was later discovered.


The family of Chang Somers said:


“Chang was well known and liked around Plymouth. He was also a much loved son and brother and his death has saddened many. We will always love and remember Chang, and feel the pain of his absence every day. We have been searching for answers for a long time and hope that the inquest next week will give us a clearer picture of what happened in the lead up to Chang’s death. We want to understand whether more could have been done to help him and whether opportunities were missed that may have ultimately prevented his death.”


Deborah Coles, co-director of INQUEST said:


“Chang’s death is a chilling reminder about why agencies should work together to respond to someone in crisis.  It is shameful that a vulnerable black man was left to die in these circumstances.  We hope that this inquest will thoroughly examine the actions of the mental health services, police and  the ambulance service so that the failures are identified and addressed”


Trudy Morgan, the family solicitor from  Hodge Jones & Allen (HJA), said:


“This inquest will be examining all of the circumstances surrounding Chang Somers’ death, including the role of various public authorities. Prior to his death Chang was in crisis and asked for help numerous times. It appears that every single agency he turned to for assistance failed to provide him with support. Chang was a very vulnerable man who did not get the help he needed – the family want to ensure that lessons will be learnt so that no-one will be allowed to slip through the net in the future.”


INQUEST has been working with the family of Chang Somers since his death in August 2012.  The family is represented by Inquest Lawyers Groups members Jocelyn Cockburn and Trudy Morgan of Hodge Jones and Allen  solicitors and Jude Bunting from Doughty Street Chambers