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Inquest opens into the death of tragic teen Seren

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Tragic: Seren Bernard

Tragic: Seren Bernard

A MILFORD HAVEN teenager was “willingly exposed to harm by the agencies which were involved in her case” an inquest heard on Monday (Jun 1).

Fourteen-year-old Seren Bernard was found dead near Hakin Point in April 2012.

Now up to twelve witnesses will be called, and ten days have been set aside for this contentious and highly emotional case, which is one of the most complex coroner’s inquests ever to be heard in Pembrokeshire.

Seren’s mother, Sarah Pollock, has argued that Seren should not have been in the care of the local authority.

The inquest at Milford Haven Town Hall, administered by Swansea coroner Paul Bennett, was told that she had suffered with hallucinations and that an imaginary friend had told her to ‘do things’.

Seren Bernard’s mother, Sarah Pollock, who broke down in tears at the inquest, claimed that her daughter had not received the therapy or care that she so badly needed. She told the coroner: “In my view they have willingly and knowingly exposesd Seren to harm.”

But Mr Bennett said at a pre-inquest in December that the scope of the inquest was not about examining “systemic failures” of the council’s care or duplicating what had been investigated by the serious case review.

The inquest has been looking into the events from September 2011, when the teenager went missing for ten days, to when she was found dead seven months later.

The barrister representing Child Adolescent Mental Health Support, which was responsible for Seren’s therapy, said she discussed her imaginary friend Jane with her support worker on two occasions. The inquest heard how during a psychiatric assessment, Seren revealed that she suffered from suicidal thoughts present since childhood.

Seren’s aunt, Tracy Norton said that her niece had displayed strange behaviour including sleeping on the floor and attempting to pierce her lips with a school compass. She told the hearing: “Social services told me that this was normal behaviour for a 14-year-old girl.”

The council’s lawyer said that the Authority had a “difficult balancing act” because Seren did not want to live with her family or have any information to be passed on to them.

A serious case review which took place last year found Seren’s death under the care of Pembrokeshire County Council’s social services department might not have been preventable and Dyfed-Powys Police ruled out a criminal investigation.

Officer had no

cause for concern

On Tuesday, a family intervention officer has said that she had no cause for concern when visiting Seren Bernard in the weeks leading up to her death.

Intervention officer Hannah Jane Thomas gave evidence that she was not a qualified social worker nor was she a mental health specialist.

Hannah had visited Seren on four occasions in March 2012 and described her as in good spirits during these visits despite others saying she was in a low mood.

She added that the way Seren presented herself didn’t give her any cause for concern and that she felt her and Seren had a good relationship.

In between the first two meetings others had noted that her mood had dropped and she had indicated that she wanted to go to the Netherlands to get an injection.

At a meeting on March 21, Hannah had recorded her as in good spirits despite conversations surrounding a friend who had died, spending less time with a boyfriend and having less of an appetite.

Seren had scored her mood at 3 out of 5 on that day and she told Hannah she wasn’t sure how she could improve her mood.

Mr Farmer asked Hannah if she thought Seren might be presenting a false image and she replied: “Seren appeared to be in good spirits, giving me a list of things she was concerned with but I wouldn’t have considered that the foster parents were already concerned with her mood and I wasn’t overly concerned with the way she presented to me.”

The pair met again six days later and Hannah recorded that Seren sounded happier.

On March 29 Hannah visited for what would be the final time and conversation included plans for the weekend and strategies to help her sleep.

Asked how her mood was, Hannah said it was consistent with how she had found her on other occasions.

Hannah added that she never recalled Seren presenting as tearful saying she was always happy.

She was also asked how much time she would spend with Seren and she agreed that she would have spent between 4-6 hours with her.

On March 21, Hannah had recorded that Seren took a long time to come down the stairs when she came to collect her and her foster parents had expressed their worries about Seren about that time and that she had been crying a lot.

She was asked if the things her foster parents had said would be on her mind when talking with her.

Hannah said that even though they were discussing those issues Seren appeared to be in good spirits and that she wasn’t given any cause for concern.

Asked if she saw her work with Seren as positive, Hannah replied: “I’d like to think so.”

Social worker had no

idea about suicide letters

On Wednesday a social worker said she was unaware of previous attempts that Seren Bernard had made to kill herself.

Wendy Rodrigues told the inquest that she knew of at least one attempt where Seren had tried to take her own life but was unaware of other attempts.

When asked if she was aware that Seren had been having frequent thoughts suicide and that she was regularly writing suicide letters, Wendy replied that she had no knowledge of this.

It was these attempts that led to Seren being placed on the Child Protection register and her involvement with the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths group (CANS).

Wendy was also required to carry out a core assessment but she told the inquest that she had started but not finished it. It was pointed out to her that she had a duty to promote Seren’s welfare and when asked, Wendy couldn’t recall why it hadn’t been completed.

She was also asked about various core group meetings and on one occasion where there was no update from CANS.

The inquest heard how CANS had not attended a meeting and the barrister questioned how the core groups could receive a proper update on Seren’s condition without the input of CANS.

It was also argued that Seren’s foster parents should have been at these meetings.

Seren had been to seven sessions with CANS and these were described as going well.

However, Seren had been deteriorating in those sessions and on December 20, CANS told her that they were willing to discharge her.

The family’s barrister added that it wasn’t acceptable for a young girl who had made at least one suicide attempt, suffering from depression and had been placed on the child protection register to be taken out of the CANS sessions.

The inquest continues.

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Angle RNLI tasked to two simultaneous incidents

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AT 4:27PM on Friday (Jun 21) the All-Weather Lifeboat was requested to launch following a VHF call from a 28ft vessel with a fouled propeller in the Longoar Bay/Butts Bay Area.

There were other vessels in the area safety boating a sailing race but due to the weather conditions they were unable to assist.

The lifeboat launched shortly after and began making best speed to the vessel but only minutes later the crew were requested to divert to another incident. The Coastguard had received a 999 call reporting a person cut off by the tide and possibly despondent near the old mining depot and the entrance to Castle Pill. With this, Tenby All-Weather Lifeboat was requested to assist with the initial incident and Milford Haven Port Authority patrol vessel Dynevor was also proceeding.

A local fishing vessel had made the call and was on scene attempting to communicate with the person. Soon after, the first informant lost sight of the person. Soon after, the lifeboat arrived on scene and after a brief discussion with the fisherman a search was commenced. The Y boat was deployed to head into Castle Pill to attempt to get a visual of the person if they had rejoined the path back to the main road.

At this point, Dale Coastguard Rescue team and the police were tasked to assist. Shortly after, the fisherman reported catching sight of the casualty through a gap in the hedge, making his was back up the road towards Black Bridge. Following this information, and with the first informant confident that this was the person he saw earlier the lifeboat was stood down to return to the previous incident.

After recovering the Y boat the lifeboat began making best speed back down towards Longoar Bay. Arriving on scene, and following a quick assessment it became clear that the casualty vessels anchor was potentially dragging. A tow was swiftly passed to the vessel and their anchor recovered.

With the tow set, the crew began towing the vessel back to Milford Marina.

Arriving off the entrance to the Milford Docks channel, the tow was dropped and the vessel transferred into an alongside tow and taken into the marina. After safely securing the vessel on the fuel pontoon, the lifeboat and her crew were stood down to return to station where she was readied for further service shortly after.

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Community

Tragic death of eight-month-old girl leaves family in mourning

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THE HEARTBROKEN grandfather of Mabli Cariad Hall, the eight-month-old girl who tragically died after her pram was struck by a car, has spoken of the enduring pain his family faces. Mabli was hit by a white BMW outside the entrance to Withybush Hospital in Haverfordwest on 21 June 2023. She succumbed to severe traumatic brain injury at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children four days later.

Speaking to the BBC this week, Paul Sambrook, Mabli’s grandfather, expressed the family’s profound grief, stating it would take years before things felt “even half right”. Speaking outside Withybush Hospital, he said, “We’re a large family, we’re a close family, and to see everyone in the family go through the same pain is a very difficult thing to bear.”

He continued, “As a grandfather, the older member of the family, you mourn several times over. You mourn for the loss of your granddaughter but then you mourn for the loss of happiness that everyone else had.”

Describing Mabli as “full of fun” with “a lovely laugh” and a “light in her eyes,” Mr Sambrook lamented the loss of her future. “She would’ve been a character, without a doubt. She was a character. I think that’s the awful tragedy. The loss of a life is one thing, the loss of the lifetime is the thing that hurts more.”

He shared fond memories of Mabli, recalling how she would distract him while he worked from home. “Very often she’d come and sit on my knee, while I was trying to work, and help me type various things. We’d end up watching some nursery rhymes or some dancing fruit. In the end, I’d give up trying to work. We used to have a lot of fun.”

In the wake of the tragedy, a purple heart has become a motif for the family, symbolising their love and loss. Mr Sambrook expressed gratitude for the support they have received, saying, “It’s been an inspiration despite the sadness.”

Mabli’s parents, Gwen and Rob Hall from Neath, laid tributes near the spot where their daughter was fatally injured. Supported by friends and family, they placed flowers, teddy bears, lights, and cards in her memory at a tree near the hospital entrance. The family also attended a private memorial service at the hospital.

At the opening of the inquest into her death, the family released a statement describing their pain and grief as “indescribable”. They said, “During this terribly painful time, we still have no answer to the central question we inevitably ask regarding the tragic loss of our beautiful baby girl.”

The driver of the BMW, along with their passenger and a pedestrian who was also hit, suffered non-life-threatening injuries and were taken to hospital. Dyfed-Powys Police have stated that the investigation is ongoing and that specialist officers continue to support the family. No arrests have been made.

Hywel Dda Health Board’s Chief Executive, Prof Philip Kloer, extended his condolences, saying, “Our thoughts and sympathies are with Mabli’s family at this time, she will always be remembered by us.”

As the family grapples with their grief, they find solace in the memories of Mabli’s short yet joyful life, while the community continues to offer its support during this heartbreaking time.

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Business

West Wales firm fined £75,000 after man killed by escaped cow

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A WEST WALES company has been fined £75,000 following the death of a 75-year-old man, Huw Evans, who was killed by a cow that had escaped from a livestock market. The incident occurred on November 19, 2022, at Whitland Livestock Market in Carmarthenshire, operated by J.J. Morris Limited.

Father-of-two Mr Evans was crossing the junction at North Road and West Street in Whitland when the cow, which was being auctioned, escaped from the market pen. The animal attacked Mr Evans, knocking him down and trampling him. He suffered multiple injuries and was airlifted to the University Hospital of Wales, where he succumbed to his injuries six days later.

A worker from J.J. Morris Limited was also injured during an unsuccessful attempt to recapture the cow. The cow eventually made its way towards Whitland Rugby Club and a railway line before being subdued and put down by Dyfed-Powys Police.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched an investigation into the incident and found that J.J. Morris Limited had failed to implement essential physical control measures to prevent cattle from escaping. The HSE concluded that the company’s risk assessment was inadequate, referencing control measures that were not in place at the market.

J.J. Morris Limited, based in Haverfordwest, admitted to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The company was fined £75,000 and ordered to pay £5,047.55 in costs by Llanelli Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, June 20.

In court, Mr Evans’ son, Dafydd, expressed his grief, saying: “Dad was my best friend, and I miss him terribly. He was taken from us too soon. Losing dad has had a tremendous effect on both myself and my brother. Because of this incident, dad’s grandsons will never fully know him personally, and he will not see them grow up.”

Following the hearing, HSE inspector Rhys Hughes remarked, “This tragic incident was foreseeable and preventable. The risk posed by cattle escaping from the livestock mart should have been identified, and effective control measures implemented. The case highlights the importance of following industry guidance, which is readily accessible and outlines the requirements to safely manage cattle.”

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