Five years ago in August Danny Tozer was one of 5,136 runners who completed the York 10k. The 10k route takes runners around some of the historic sites including the ancient city walls, the York Minster and Clifford’s Tower. This was the second time Danny had run the 10k since joining York Athletics Club two years previously, he shaved 18 minutes of his 2014 time and was even featured in the local press:
Danny, and his support worker Barry, were raising money for International Service, a charity supporting disabled people overseas. In an interview with local journalist, Mike Press of the York Press, Danny’s mum Rosie explained that throughout Danny’s life assumptions had been made about what Danny could do and he’d often been denied chances to try things. Rosie said:
“We know that he enjoys running, it helps him feel good and he likes to be part of the crowd”
A month later and Danny was dead.
A fit and healthy young man, left without adequate care and support, in the ‘care’ of Mencap for just two years and his life over. Danny loved people almost as much as he loved his cups of tea. He enjoyed travel, playing his piano and spending time outside whether that was running, walking, cycling or horse riding.
You’d hope that any death in Mencap’s care would be subjected to the highest levels of scrutiny, after all they’re the self proclaimed ‘leading voice of learning disability’. Their immediate response – absolutely nothing. No internal investigation, no self reflection, no contact to Danny’s family to explain how they’d work with them to learn everything they could. Nada.
The immediate response from the coronial service wasn’t any better. The decision was that Danny died due to natural causes, his family were told there would be no inquest and there was no post mortem (as Danny’s organ’s had been donated to give a chance at life to five other people). Danny’s devastated parents, Rosie and Tim, were told there would be no inquest, no scrutiny into Danny’s death. They had other ideas.
Fast forward 14 months and this is Danny’s mum Rosie, on the right, and Connor Sparrowhawk’s mum Sara, in the middle, talking to a Spanish journalist on our first camino. Sharing experiences of both their son’s dying premature deaths and the absolute battle both families had to fight to ensure that there was anything vaguely amounting to scrutiny into their deaths.
As we walked the camino, carrying the JusticeforLB bus, people we met were incredulous that the UK, with its wonderful NHS and social care systems would not want to do everything in their power to understand why these fit and healthy young men had died.
Fast forward another 18 months and Rosie and Tim joined Sara, Alicia, Henry, Agent T and Dawn who had all walked before, and a number of others to continue the camino, the JusticeforLB bus being joined by Danny’s teapot.
Rosie and Tim walked the start of this camino before returning home to prepare for Danny’s inquest. Weeks before we’d been in court as Mencap argued to close the scope of Danny’s inquest, suggesting that it did not need a jury because the average man and woman of York wouldn’t be able to understand and would hinder it running to time.
In a feat of extreme arrogance they also argued that the scope should be limited to the last six months of Danny’s life; the same six months which Mencap had apparently ‘lost’ all the daily log records for. They claimed they must have given them to City of York Council or the CCG for their investigations. Neither of those had them and no copy was taken. Of course what we do know is that Mencap wouldn’t have required them for their own investigation, because they didn’t bother to do one.
In April 2018 I stayed with Rosie and Tim throughout Danny’s inquest and live tweeted it in its entirety. Truth be told 2.5 years later, and almost 5 years to the day since Danny died, and I’m still in shock at some of what I heard. The most moving part that still makes my heart ache, was watching Rosie address the inquest and explain that she’d brought Danny’s scrap book with her, so that those present would have the chance to get to know Danny.
So much love and care, 2.5 years after Danny’s death and his mum was still desperate for those people who were meant to be caring for him, to see him as fully human.
Rosie also shared her experience of the inquest process, in this post La Danse Macabre. I’ve written about Danny’s inquest before here, and here, Sara Ryan has written about it here, and Alicia Wood has written about it here.
Please take the time to read these accounts, to understand the tactics used at Danny’s inquest, and the utter hypocrisy of an organisation that launched a campaign called ‘Treat Me Well’ at the same time as refusing to conduct even a cursory examination of the death of someone in their care, and actively traumatising their family.
When Edel Harris, the latest Mencap CEO took up post she had every opportunity to do the right thing and proactively contact the Tozers with her condolences and ideas for improving things. She didn’t bother, blocking myself and a number of people on twitter who suggested she might like to take that course of action.
Tomorrow it is 5 years since Danny died, aged just 36. I’ve a post and a poem from Rosie to share with you then. Please take some time this week to think of, and remember Danny.
A few of us were wondering how we could show support for Danny’s family and remember Danny tomorrow and we thought a virtual tea party might work. If you’d like to join us, then please make yourselves a cup of tea (Danny would have insisted it was brewed in a teapot, but we’ll let you use bags if you’d rather), and think of Danny and share a photo on social media with the hashtag #RememberingDannyTozer and don’t forget to pop back tomorrow for Rosie’s poem.