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Family concern over celebrity "grooming" of Truro teenager understood to have killed himself

By WBMiles  |  Posted: March 18, 2014

Ben Cowburn, who is understood to have taken his own life at Longreach mental health unit.

A psychiatrist at a mental health unit in Cornwall described a teenager as “a drama queen” only days before he took his own life, an inquest heard.

Ben Cowburn from Truro was 18 years old when he killed himself at the Longreach mental health unit near Redruth.

His mother Sharon Cowburn told the jury inquest into his death that a psychiatrist described Ben as “melodramatic” following an overdose and before he succeeded in taking his own life.

The inquest, at Epiphany House in Truro, also heard the family had become concerned that, while previously studying in London, Ben had been “groomed” by a celebrity referred to as X. The jury were told Ben may have been sexually assaulted while in London.

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Mrs Cowburn told the inquest her son had previously been talked down from a railway bridge in London, had run around on the A30 and been found at night, bleeding, in a coastguard hut near Portreath.

She told the inquest Ben had not had a named carer at Longreach , the family were given little information, it was not possible to tell who was staff and who was a patient and it was easy to get out of the mental health unit by following cleaners.

The inquest heard Ben had taken an overdose a week before his death in December 2010 and was admitted to the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro.

Mrs Cowburn said her daughters, Amber, Sophia and Laura, were upset following a discussion with Adrian Flynn, consultant psychiatrist, about their brother.

Mrs Cowburn said: “The girls were outraged and said Dr Flynn had told Ben he was melodramatic.

“We went to see Dr Flynn...he concluded by saying Ben was a drama queen and things were not as bad as they might seem.”

Ben was discharged later that night and a week later, in the early hours of December 20, the Cowburns were woken at home by two police officers who informed them their son had been found dead in his room at Longreach.

Earlier in the hearing the inquest was told Ben had left his A level studies at Truro College to go and study at the London Fashion Retail Academy.

Mrs Cowburn said: “Around this time I became aware Ben had met a celebrity in a pub and he had asked Ben to do some styling work.

“He said he already had a stylist and said he could not pay him but he would buy him presents.

“It came up on the internet that he was featured on the front of Gay Times.”

In a statement read out at the hearing, Ben’s twin sister Sophia said she was aware Ben had become friendly with the celebrity, referred to as X during the inquest.

Sophia said: “We had concerns about him being groomed by X.”

The inquest heard Ben implied to Sophia days before his death that he had been sexually assaulted while living in London.

In response to questions from the West Briton the coroner's clerk said the decision not to name the celebrity involved had been agreed by all interested parties.

The Cowburn family set up the Invictus Trust following Ben's death, which raises awareness of mental health issues and has pushed for a specialist facility for young people in Cornwall.

The inquest is scheduled to last until the end of next week.

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