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Parents left brokenhearted over death of autistic son

PUBLISHED: 13:44 07 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:40 07 September 2010

Harry Horne-Roberts

Harry Horne-Roberts

THE heartbroken parents of a young autistic man who died of heart failure are demanding a full inquiry into their son's death. Harry Horne-Roberts, 20, died in his sleep on December 16, 2009, just two years after leaving the home he shared wit

Tan Parsons

THE heartbroken parents of a young autistic man who died of heart failure are demanding a full inquiry into their son's death.

Harry Horne-Roberts, 20, died in his sleep on December 16, 2009, just two years after leaving the home he shared with his parents Jennifer and Keith in Archway.

His mother, who is a barrister, said: "He was a very beautiful boy - very sweet. He was like an angel, just a beautiful creature. He was lovely, very clever - a brilliant mind behind his autism.

"We took him for short seaside breaks and took him swimming. We went for walks with him and his favourite occupation was going to museums and libraries. He would get anxious sometimes because of his autism and couldn't sleep."

Harry lived at home with his family in Cheverton Road until he was 18 but he sometimes tried to run away and was once stopped from trying to swim across the Thames.

His parents say that when he was anxious he would stay up late and bang on the walls. Finally they felt they were unable to look after him any more and at the age of 18 he went to live in separate supported accommodation.

Harry developed late onset autism when he was a one-year-old, which his mother believes was caused when he received the MMR vaccination.

His death certificate records that he died from natural causes but his parents are calling for an inquest and are preparing a formal complaint to the Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health Trust over the care their son received.

Following his death they discovered he had been treated with chlorpromazine. After conducting their own research into the drug they believe it should not have been used on him and that it contributed to his death.

Up to the age of 18, at which point his parents were excluded from discussions about his healthcare, he had not been given any drugs. Two days before his death he had appeared healthy and active when on a walk with his parents in Epping Forest.

Harry's funeral was held on Monday (January 4) at a packed St Michael's Church in Highgate attended by friends, family members and people who had worked with him.

He was described by staff at the Tavistock Centre, where he was treated, as highly intelligent and had been accepted for a place at the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Centre in Gospel Oak where staff had found he was highly musically talented.

A gifted artist, his work had been exhibited in several centres in London, and he also excelled as a composer, musician, singer, film maker and model maker. He had perfect pitch and tuned the musical instruments at the Bridge School near Kentish Town, which he attended until he was 19.

In the course of their research Mr and Mrs Horne-Roberts found reports suggesting that anti-psychotic drugs like chlorpromazine can cause heart defects leading to sudden and unexpected death. A spokesman for the Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health Trust said: "We are sorry to hear of the death of Harry Horne-Roberts and extend our condolences to his family and friends.

"We understand that the coroner has concluded that the death was due to natural causes. However, if the family has a concern about any aspect of Harry's care or treatment, we would encourage them to contact us so that we might investigate fully."

Harry is survived by his parents, his sister Francesca and his half brother William.


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