THE mental health unit from which a schizophrenic absconded and later died is still reporting patients missing, an inquest heard yesterday.
Daniel Heard's body was found five days after he walked out of the Cedars mental unit in Exeter in freezing temperatures in February 2004, wearing just jeans and a T-shirt. His body was found 10 miles away.
Det Supt Nigel Bolton, head of crime operations for Devon, gave evidence yesterday about changes made to the way missing people are dealt with in the wake of Daniel's death.
Although he could not provide figures, Det Supt Bolton said that because of the "nature" of the individuals at the Cedars unit, they were still reporting missing patients.
He said: "There are still missing people from the Cedars because of the type of individuals they have there, and cases can and still do occur."
He also revealed police in Exeter deal, on average, with nearly four missing people a day. Across Devon and Cornwall, police dealt with 11,912 reports of missing people in 2007/08 – an average of nearly 33 people a day.
The figures have risen considerably since 2004, when 9,932 missing people were reported across the force area – an average of 27 people a day.
More than two dozen police officers and volunteers combed the Devon countryside for Daniel, who had a history of absconding from mental institutions, before his body was found.
He suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and the inquest has heard, that in a psychotic state, he would not have realised the danger of being outside in extremely cold conditions.
Det Supt Bolton said several changes had been made to the way missing persons reports are handled. All officers are also given training in missing persons and mental health awareness.