A 16-year-old who was found dead after being ‘groomed’ by county lines drug dealers feared ‘dangerous men’ were hunting him down after police arrested him and seized his drugs, an inquest heard today.
Ben Nelson-Roux, until recently a pupil of St Aidan’s Church of England High School in Harrogate, was forced to deal Class A drugs, including crack cocaine, in cities including York and Sheffield, the hearing heard.
He was tragically found dead at a hostel for homeless adults in April 2020 after warnings from his psychologist that ‘something terrible would happen to him’ if he did not get proper help.
Ben’s devastated mother, Kate Roux, told how she discovered her son had been lying dead on his bed all day at his hostel despite her repeated warnings he was vulnerable and at risk.
The businesswoman, from Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, said that on the day of the tragic discovery, April 8, 2020, she was due to have a Skype meeting with Ben and a psychologist in London.
She said: ‘I went to the hostel to pick him up and take him out for something to eat. But when she arrived she was told by staff that her son had ”gone out”.
‘I banged on his door again and I got no reply. I kicked the door in with the help of an unknown male. I entered the flat. Ben was on his back on the bed, fully dressed.
‘I rang 999. I was told to start chest compressions. After a short time, paramedics arrived and took over. But they stopped working on him because it was obvious he was dead.’
Asked by Coroner Jonathan Heath when she had last spoken to her son, she said she last heard from Ben at 9.55pm the night before – Tuesday April 7 – when she rang him.
‘He sounded happy,’ she recalled. ‘He said he had managed to get hold of some cannabis and had split up from his girlfriend.’
The hearing heard Mrs Roux, a massage therapist and Tai Chai teacher who runs Pendulum Holistic Therapies, had built a special annex at her home for Ben to live in.
North Yorkshire Police said they were aware of people gathering at the annex to smoke drugs and had been keeping a close eye on it.
But Ben’s behaviour had become so ‘chaotic and risk taking lifestyle’ had led to increased drug taking and suicide attempts over Xmas 2019, according to reports read by consultant psychologist David Loveday-Sims to an earlier hearing.
He had started smoking cannabis aged 12 but his favourite drug by this time was said to be ecstasy, Mr Loveday-Sims added.
Reports by substance misuse workers also stated: ‘He felt his life had little meaning and he was wasting his time. He is aware the problem exists but has no commitment to action.
‘He states he hates the police because when he was arrested last time he was stripped naked and placed in a special suite.
‘He hates his family getting caught up with his drug abuse. It was clear he would not ask for help and realistically could not help himself.’
His goals were described as ‘routine…keeping out of debt. It was clear he had no plans to harm himself or kill himself.’
The hearing was told the teenager’s main concern was not getting into debt. He had repeatedly blamed drug debts for his serial shop lifting and other offending.
Mr Loveday-Sims interviewed Ben shortly before his death when he insisted ‘he was not a slave to anyone’.
‘He agreed he needed more structure but added he was only 16 and has time to get his life together’ the psychologist added.
‘Who is responsible for the health and safety of a 16 year old who lots of agencies are trying to assist? It is not entirely clear who is responsible. He said he needed housing – and justice.’
He told the hearing he feared ‘something terrible would happen’ to Ben, a reluctant mental health patient, unless the lad got the help his parents were seeking,
But he agreed his condition did not warrant the use of powers under the Mental Health Act despite the concerns about him being housed in a hostel for homeless adults.
On his final encounter with Ben’s mother, he said: ‘I agreed with Mrs Roux his accommodation posed a significant risk to Ben. But there were no current grounds to detain or treat Ben under the Mental Health Act.’
The youngster had been interviewed by Special Branch officers in the months before his death but North Yorkshire Police have been so far unable to explain why.News