22 February 2022

Before HM Senior Coroner Dr James Adeley
Preston Coroner’s Court
County Hall, Pitt Street, Preston PR1 8XJ
Opened 28 February 2022

Summing up of evidence: 5 April 2022
Jury directions and sent out: estimated 6 April 2022

Kelly Hartigan-Burns, 35, died in 2016 after being arrested and put in a Blackburn police cell whilst in a mental health crisis. A Lancashire police hearing concluded last October with a finding of gross misconduct against the custody sergeant who booked her in. Now the inquest will go ahead to establish the full circumstances of her death.

Kelly was found unresponsive in a cell at Greenbank Police Station at around 1.30am on 4 December 2016, having self-ligatured. She was taken to hospital and put on life support where on 5 December 2016 she was pronounced dead.

Originally from Bolton, Kelly lived in Darwen with her civil partner Cal Hartigan-Burns. Cal sadly died in 2020 before learning the full details of what happened to Kelly.

Kelly’s family describe her as a bright and positive person. Although her mental health was impacted by the sudden and traumatic death of her father when she was a teenager, she went on to get her degree and to help people with substance misuse issues.

Kelly’s history of mental ill health, self-harm and alcohol misuse brought her under the care of community mental health professionals at East Lancashire NHS Trust. By the end of November 2016, her family had become increasingly concerned about her.

Late on 3 December 2016, a member of the public called 999 and reported seeing Kelly on a main road in her pyjamas, expressing thoughts of self-harm. Lancashire police officers attended and took her home. Her partner, who was a nurse, explained that Kelly was vulnerable and needed care, and that things had just got out of hand.

Instead of using their mental health powers to take Kelly to a place of safety, police arrested her for common assault and took her to Greenbank Police Station, still in her pyjamas. The circumstances of the 999 call and Kelly’s history of self-harm were not explored, and she was placed in a cell where she was able to make and use a ligature.

Kelly was found unresponsive in the cell and was taken to hospital where she later died. The inquest will explore the actions of police in arresting Kelly, their actions on arrival in custody, and the care she received after that.   


For further information please contact Lucy McKay on 020 7263 1111 or [email protected]

Journalists must register with the court to attend the inquest. There is no remote access available.

Timings: The inquest opens on Monday 28 February at 10am. It is scheduled for four weeks, but it will not be sitting on Monday’s 2 March, or on 7, 14 and 22 March. The inquest is scheduled to finish towards the end of the week beginning 21 March, depending on the pace of the evidence and timing of the jury deliberations.

The family are represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Carolynn Gallwey of Bhatt Murphy and Fiona Murphy of Doughty Street Chambers. They are supported by INQUEST caseworker Caroline Finney.

Journalists should refer to the Samaritans Media Guidelines for reporting suicide and self-harm and guidance for reporting on inquests.

Gross misconduct charges against police involved:

The misconduct hearing concluded on 11 October 2021, finding that Police Sergeant Jason Marsden did breach professional standards and this was gross misconduct. Mr Marsden, 51, retired just under a month before the hearing. The sanction for gross misconduct in this case would have been dismissal without notice, had he still been in post. He has been barred from working in the police in future. See media release.