AN ARTIST’S teenage son died of an overdose on heroin and prescription drugs after a “missed opportunity” to stop him getting medication from multiple different places.

Alison Lapper’s 19-year-old son Parys died in August 2019 after years struggling with addiction and his mental health.

The artist, who was born without arms and with shortened legs due to a condition called phocomelia, had posed naked while heavily pregnant with Parys in 2000 for a marble sculpture by the artist Marc Quinn, for the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square in London.

Parys was found on August 13, 2019 at the Wolsey Hotel in Worthing, and a post mortem examination revealed he had taken heroin and benzodiazepine drugs.

The inquest into his death heard he had been able to access prescription drugs including diazepam from a range of sources, with visits to an NHS psychiatrist, a private psychiatrist, GPs and A and E.

At the final hearing of the inquest this morning at Crawley Coroner’s Court, senior coroner for West Sussex Penelope Schofield said it was “very clear” the teenager had died after an accidental overdose.

The Argus: Marc Quinn's sculpture of Alison Lapper, pregnant with Parys, for the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square in 2000Marc Quinn's sculpture of Alison Lapper, pregnant with Parys, for the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square in 2000

Parys had suffered from complex mental health issues and had started taking drugs including cannabis at a young age.

At 17 he was diagnosed with a number of conditions including anxiety disorder, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

He had been under the care of  the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and subsequently transitioned to adult mental health services, but had “refused to engage” with the adult teams, the court heard.

He was discharged from mental health services in July last year and advised to seek help for substance misuse, just weeks before his death.

The coroner said Parys’ demands for medication increased towards the end of 2018, as well as his illicit drug-taking.

He had been prescribed the anxiety drug diazepam, to be collected weekly through the NHS.

But Parys also began seeing a private psychiatrist in London, Dr Richard Duffett, in secret, as well as as consultant psychiatrist in Sussex.

The coroner said: “Dr Duffet took Parys’ word he was no longer receiving care from the NHS but we know this was not the case.

“Dr Duffet accepted he did not give any thought that Parys was seeking double medication from different sources. In my view that was a missed opportunity.

The Argus:

“While I cannot find that it was directly causative to his death there’s a concern it added to his addiction problems.

“This is one area that causes me a lot of concern, that patients can obtain duplicate prescriptions from a range of services.”

The coroner said Dr Duffet “had the wool pulled firmly over his eyes” and that “there must be a way to improve the system”.

Ms Schofield also highlighted “a lack of suitable housing for people with substance misuse issues” and said there was a problem with people being put in the same accommodation as others with addictions.

She recorded a narrative conclusion and said: “This is such a tragic case of a young man who has lost his life to drugs.

“Many people tried to help but for whatever reason he was not ready.

“I do understand Ms Lapper that you feel aggrieved at services involved but it does appear there is no recognised service for people who abuse substances but are refusing to engage.  

“I’ve not lost sight of the fact that while this case is about substance misuse we should not forget that this drug has robbed a mother of her son.”

Earlier in the inquest, Ms Lapper described Parys as her “miracle millennium new baby” who had the “biggest blue eyes that would melt the heart of anyone”.

She said he had been “badly let down” by social services before his death.