Man fell to death at council headquarters, inquest hears

Inquest will resume to hear about council's internal investigation and evidence from security staff

Thursday, 22nd July 2021 — By Harry Taylor

Darryn Van Vuuren

Darryn Van Vuuren

A TOWN Hall worker who fell to his death at the council’s headquarters may have suffered from drug-induced delusions, an inquest has heard.

Darryn Van Vuuren was found dead on the second floor of council offices at 5 Pancras Square in King’s Cross – known as 5PS – on February 18. A colleague discovered the 37-year-old’s body after he had fallen six floors.

Mr Van Vuuren had worked at the council for four years as a data and governance officer.


Anyone struggling is urged to call the Samaritans who offer free and confidential advice during times of crisis. You can contact them on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org


The inquest at St Pancras Coroner’s Court heard that he had suffered a deterioration in his mental health in the weeks previously, and had started to believe he was being followed by the Chinese secret service and had been poisoned.

He also had social anxiety, for which he had taken benzodiazepines, some bought off the “dark web”, and had developed anxiety about his health.

His paranoia about being followed meant he feared going back to his flat in Denmark Street.

The alarm was initially raised two days before his death, when colleagues called an ambulance to the office block in King’s Cross after receiving distressing emails from Mr Van Vuuren.


SEE ALSO STAFF PAY TRIBUTE TO ‘DEDICATED’ COLLEAGUE WHO FELL TO DEATH AT COUNCIL OFFICES


He was taken to UCLH’s A&E, where he was assessed and discharged, before returning hours later in the early hours of February 17.

Alice Azeez, a psychiatric nurse who treated him, was asked by coroner Mary Hassell whether she thought he had been suffering from drug induced delusions.

“I should have recorded drug induced delusions. It’s something I should do in future,” she said. “It could be drugs, yes, but that day he didn’t have any in his system. I couldn’t say if it was drugs use or part of his mental state.”

Mr Van Vuuren was sent to St Pancras Hospital, which has a mental health unit. However, he instead checked into the Euston Square Hotel.

He was then reported as a missing person after colleagues didn’t hear from him, but the Metropolitan Police’s acting inspector Matthew Woolison only put him at “medium risk” after reading notes from his time in A&E.

Later on February 17 Mr Van Vuuren returned to 5 Pancras Square and, despite having his card deactivated, he got in.

Questions from his family remain unanswered about how he was still able to access the offices, why nobody spotted him in the building for 10 hours despite security staff being told to look out for him, and what has been done to make the offices safer.

The court heard from Camden Council lawyer Nicholas Ostrowski that an internal investigation has been completed, but has not been made public.

Camden’s ‘5PS’ offices in King’s Cross where Mr Van Vuuren died

Dr John Dunn, consultant psychiatrist at the Margarete Centre in Hampstead Road, had worked to help Mr Van Vuuren with drug addiction issues.

He said his mental health had declined during the Covid pandemic which saw him spend Christmas in London, rather than visiting family, although when he last saw him he did not get any indication about any suicidal thoughts.

Ms Hassell told the court that a three-page note was found in a backpack Mr Van Vuuren had taken to 5 Pancras Square, but said she would not rule on his death until the inquest resumes next month, when security staff will give evidence after a request by the family’s lawyer, Sefton Kwasnik.

Former colleagues paid tribute during the hearing yesterday (Wednesday).

The council’s head of procurement and social value, Nicole Penn, described Mr Van Vuuren as “conscientious and happy to help anyone who needed it”.

St Pancras Coroner’s Court

And a Camden Council spokesperson said: “Our heartfelt sympathies are with Darryn’s family and friends at such a difficult time. Darryn was an important member of the Camden team, and well liked and respected by colleagues across the council. We all miss him very much.”

The inquest continues.


Anyone struggling is urged to call the Samaritans who offer free and confidential advice during times of crisis. You can contact them on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org

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