A university student from Melton fell to his death in an abandoned hotel in Sheffield which had become a haven for ‘urban explorers’, an inquest heard this week.
Thomas Rhodes, who was 19, was found dead in March last year at the foot of the delapidated Hallam Tower, close to a fire hose which had been draped down from a height.
Speaking after the inquest, at Sheffield Coroner’s Court, members of his family said they believed the building was in a ‘poor state of repair’ and more should have been done over the last six years to prevent people from accessing the building.
Thomas’ mother, Carmel, said: “I know that Thomas, along with many other students, was trespassing - but the point is he shouldn’t have been able to.”
The court heard how four students, all of whom were trespassing and were unknown to Thomas, were at the site around the time he fell, at 3.15pm in the afternoon.
At the conclusion of the inquest on Tuesday, Sheffield Coroner, Christopher Dorries, said he did not think it was an exaggeration to describe the level of trespass at the site, which contains the hotel tower, as an ‘epidemic’.
“One only has to go through the evidence of students read here, and particularly those four present at the time Thomas was found, to realise access to the site (as opposed to the hotel) was not difficult,” said Mr Dorries.
He added: “Despite efforts to dissuade trespassers, Thomas was able to access the site and the tower building without apparent difficulty.
“It is clear the building owners and the relevant parts of the local authority were not aware of the scale of the trespass at the time.”
The hearing was told how Thomas had suffered a ‘drug-induced’ psychosis, for which he was admitted to Leicester’s Glenfield Hospital for 10 days in the summer before he began a geography degree at Sheffield in September 2016.
Thomas, a former pupil of Melton’s St Francis Primary School, was considered to be well enough to begin university by medics, providing he received a continuing level of care in Sheffield.
Thomas’ sister, Kate (17), helped to ‘distract’ him while he was going through his period of psychosis, which began during a family holiday to France. Speaking after the inquest, Kate said the family and Leicestershire mental health services looked after him ‘so well’ that she feels disappointed the level of care did not continue when he went to Sheffield, and was mainly conducted over the phone.
The coroner recorded a narrative conclusion, which is a factual statement which does not attribute the cause of a person’s death to an individual or an organisation.