Page last updated at 17:06 GMT, Tuesday, 15 September 2009 18:06 UK

Probe into police officer's death

Sgt Richard Bexhell
Sgt Richard Bexhell served with Sussex Police for 22 years

A Sussex mental health trust has started an investigation into the death of a police officer who had been detained under the mental health act.

Sgt Richard Bexhell, 49, died in the intensive care unit at the Conquest Hospital, Hastings, on 30 August.

He had been admitted to the Woodlands Unit on the hospital site a day before.

Sussex Police Federation has voiced its concern about the health and wellbeing of police staff following his death. Sgt Bexhell's funeral was on Monday.

The incident follows three other sudden deaths in the force, two of which were found to be suicide.

'Completely unrelated'

The federation described the deaths as being "unprecedented".

Det Insp Brian Stockham, chairman of the federation, said: "I've never known four cases, in the 32 years I've served Sussex Police, in such a short period of time.

Staff face a challenging role - Sussex Police is fully aware of this and has a number of systems in place to support those experiencing stress
Marion Fanthorpe, Sussex Police human resources

"They are clearly, from what I do know, completely unrelated. There is very little commonality between them except that they are tragedies."

Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the Woodlands Unit, said it was carrying out an investigation into Sgt Bexhill's death and would inform his family of the findings.

Sussex Police said his death was being treated as unexplained, they were looking into the circumstances and the coroner had been informed.

'Greatly missed'

Chief Constable Martin Richards said the father-of-four, who was known as Dick, gave 22 years of loyal and dedicated service to Sussex Police.

He added: "He will be greatly missed by all who knew him and our thoughts and prayers are with his wife and family at this time."

Marion Fanthorpe, director of Sussex Police human resources, said the four recent deaths of police staff and officers were "tragic but unrelated, each due to different personal circumstances".

She added: "In common with other emergency services, staff face a challenging role. Sussex Police is fully aware of this and has a number of systems in place to support those experiencing stress at work or in their personal lives."


Federation chairman Det Insp Brian Stockham says the stresses of the job mean staff suffer from mental health issues and need support

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