'I was arrested for "poisoning" my children after my antidepressants left me suicidal'

“I don’t remember being transferred to hospital, presumably because I was unconscious or sedated, but during that journey, I was later told I was arrested on claims that I had attempted to poison my children.”

Laura Turner, a 44-year-old mum of three from Morden, had woken up in St George’s Hospital after attempting to take her own life to discover she’d been arrested on suspicion of poisoning her children. She had taken them to A&E in a paranoid panic and told staff she was worried they’d consumed her sleeping tablets.

Her husband, Duncan, rushed to the hospital to find Laura gone. He was asked permission for nurses to take urine samples from the children to detect if they had actually taken any of their mum’s medicine. “The children all seemed fine, none of them had any symptoms,” Duncan said.

READ MORE: Laura's story is being told as a four part series. Read the first part of Laura's story here

Laura Tuner stood outside her home in Morden leaning against a fence
Laura was told she had been arrested on suspicion of poisoning her children -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

The Turner’s house had been turned into a crime scene and none of the family were allowed home. Detectives then arrived at A&E, speaking individually to the two older children and then to Duncan before allowing them to return home.

Only then did Duncan discover Laura had been arrested. “It was incredibly distressing to learn this on top of everything else that had happened that day, and I struggled to contain my emotions," Duncan said.

'I could feel the fractured bones shifting around'

Meanwhile, Laura was at St George’s with multiple fractures. She claimed that in the hospital notes written for nurses and other staff, it was repeatedly written that she had poisoned her children, instead of having accidentally taken some of her medication, which Laura had been concerned about the day she'd rushed them to hospital. “It was an accusation presented as fact," Laura said. “Isn’t it that you’re supposed to be innocent until proven guilty?”

She claims this had a profound negative impact on her treatment while in St George’s, and that her clavicle fracture was not treated properly or with the care it should have been given. Laura claimed: “They did not even provide a sling to stabilise it, I could feel the fractured bones shifting around.”

In response to an official complaint, St George’s claimed a consultant attempted to visit and assess Laura, but only after she had been moved to a different hospital four weeks later. By that point the window had gone for critical treatment on her clavicle fracture, Laura said.

Whilst at St George’s, Laura had also been diagnosed with Munchausen syndrome, which is a condition where someone fakes or pretends to be ill. Duncan said: “Once more, rather than understanding the chronology of events, this was another psychiatry professional projecting the blame for Laura’s symptoms onto her.”

Laura was banned from seeing her own children

Laura and her family on holiday before she became ill
Laura and her family on holiday before she became ill -Credit:Laura Turner

Following Laura’s arrest, both the Metropolitan Police and social services had immediately become involved. Duncan was visited at home by a police officer and a member of social services, who told him Laura’s bail conditions meant she was not to have any direct nor indirect contact with her children without prior permission from social services.

The Turners claim social services were not legally allowed to prevent Laura’s contact with her children beyond a seven-day period - instead of the three months they enforced it for.

“They never sought a mandatory court sanction. In meeting minutes we later accessed, a social worker stated they themselves had no legal basis to prevent access,” Laura said.

During that internal meeting, where the police and social services both attended, the police constable confirmed Laura was only allowed contact with her children if social services allowed it. Social services then approved access between Laura and her children, but the same PC then said that no one should be seen to be facilitating contact.

Following this, the hospital continued to enforce the ban. Laura believes none of these bodies had the jurisdiction to prevent contact between her and children. This was a "blatant abuse of power, which caused a high degree of harm and prolonged psychological distress for both us and the children, the effects of which are still felt,” Duncan claimed.

Psychiatric wards were 'torture'

After four weeks at St George's Hospital, Laura was placed in two psychiatric wards, first at Tolworth Hospital before being moved to Queen Mary’s Hospital. She remained in these hospitals for a further three months.

Whilst in hospital, Laura claims she was questioned by a psychiatrist about blood test results from her children, which she believes was information provided by the police. However, Duncan confirmed the children had never had any blood tests.

Laura and her husband Duncan sat on a sofa looking at each other
Following Laura's arrest, strict conditions were placed on the family by social services, banning Laura from seeing her children and then from being alone in a room with them -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga

Laura felt the experience in the wards was “torture”. She was being put on an ever-changing cocktail of strong medications, and claims they were stopped and started. “I was told that I was sectioned and if I refused to take medication I would be forcibly held down and injected with it, despite my repeated pleas,” Laura said.

Laura said it got to the point where she was on the highest doses of several strong drugs, yet she just spiraled further. So they “threatened” her with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), she alleges.

Laura panicked - electric currents were what had caused things to start falling apart in the first place after a facial had left her with damaged nerves causing severe pain in her mouth. She began looking for a way out of the hospital.

Discharge from hospital

She found the ‘Nearest Relative Discharge’ clause, which the hospital agreed to, despite days earlier saying she could not visit her son on his birthday. But once home, Laura still had to abide by the bail conditions set by the police - so her parents would travel down from Yorkshire every week to enable Laura to be allowed to be in the same room as her children. The other condition was that she had to continue taking the medication she had been prescribed.

These were Olanzapine, Venlafaxine and Lorazepam. By this point, Laura’s original pain, the nerve pain in her mouth and teeth, had been completely dismissed in the face of the mental health conditions doctors continued to diagnose her with.

As soon as Laura was discharged from hospital, the police deemed her well enough to be interviewed. She was still very vulnerable and was acclimatising to normal life outside the hospital.

Laura looking out of the kitchen window
Laura was determined to find out what was wrong with her - and discovered a video by American neurotoxicologist who talked about all the symptoms she was experiencing -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga

She felt the questioning was oppressive and the police officers had implied she had wanted to hurt her children. After the interview, Laura claims she was placed in a cell for unsubstantiated reasons.

Duncan said: “I strongly believe she was taken advantage of in a heavily compromised state, compounded by the effects of the medications she was on.”

Laura then started desperately searching for what could have happened to her, and found an interview on YouTube with an American neurotoxicologist called Dr Raymond Singer. “It described every single thing that had happened to me,” Laura said. Some people can be genetically more susceptible to neurotoxic poisoning, Laura learned, while many psychiatric drugs can be toxic as opposed to therapeutic and cause a range of symptoms from insomnia to suicidal ideation – exactly just like Laura herself had experienced.

DNA testing

Laura booked a consultation with Dr Singer, who recommended that Laura get her DNA tested and referred her to a forensic medical examiner and DNA expert, Dr Selma Eikelenboom-Schieveld. “Dr Singer said that symptomatically I had suffered extreme adverse reactions to psychiatric drugs, and the severity of the symptoms indicated a neurotoxic injury, which was supported by neurophysiological testing” Laura said.

Laura then received her DNA results from Dr Eikelenboom. The DNA results showed she has a serious metabolic issue with metabolising drugs, especially the psychoactive drugs prescribed to her.

Laura learnt from Dr Eikelenboom that she had developed a condition called akathisia, a side effect of commonly prescribed medications including, but not limited to, psychoactive drugs. It's a neurological disorder characterised by severe agitation, an inability to remain still, and an overwhelming sense of terror.

“But it’s not just a movement disorder, as most doctors believe,” Laura said. It was the medications Laura was being required to take that were causing all of these symptoms - as well as the paranoid haze that had seen her rush her children to A&E.

All of her symptoms were iatrogenic, meaning they were caused by the treatment she was receiving. Laura described this diagnosis as pivotal, saying: “I am not an isolated case, I have read many heartbreaking stories. I had all the symptoms of this condition.

Laura looking out the window
Laura was told she had developed a condition called akathisia, a condition characterised by severe agitation, an inability to remain still, and an overwhelming sense of terror -Credit:Facundo Arrizabalaga

“Misdiagnosis is causing catastrophic harm to many people, including loss of family support, abandonment, mistreatment, involuntary hospitalisations and forced drugging with medications that exacerbate the symptoms and increase the likelihood of suicide. Akathisia is a suicide prevention emergency and being able to recognise the symptoms is critical in saving someone’s life.”

There is a clear difference between depression and akathisia, Laura emphasised. Akathisia has two sides - one is an outer restlessness, but the other is an extraordinary internal state of terror.

“When people get this side effect they will tell you they want to kill themselves to escape this severe inner agitation,” Laura said. “They feel like jumping off a building or hanging themselves.”

She added: “When people are depressed they feel hopeless, helpless, worthless. That’s what they tell you they will want to escape. It looks totally different to akathisia.”

Dr Singer and Dr Eikelenboom’s reports were then reviewed by a consultant psychiatrist based on Harley Street, who agreed that Laura had developed akathisia as an iatrogenic, medication-induced side effect of the medication and that her symptoms had been misdiagnosed as an evolving mental illness.

Laura was medicated with numerous antipsychotic medications during her time in hospital. The consultant psychiatrists said Laura would have likely experienced significant side effects from these drugs, given her DNA test results.

Laura had even been assessed in hospital by an early intervention service who had found she wasn’t presenting as psychotic, so had questioned why she was being medicated for it given it wasn't a diagnosis at the time. In response to a complaint Laura made, the Trust claimed a pharmacist had deemed it appropriate treatment.

“I was labelled delusional for claiming that I was being harmed by psychiatric drugs,” Laura said. “The consultant psychiatrist highlighted that pharmacogenetics testing supported that this was not a delusional belief.”

Dr Eikeleboom told Laura she needed to be weaned off all the medications she was taking. After reviewing Laura’s test results, Dr Singer agreed, and was conclusive in his opinion that Laura had suffered a 'neurotoxic injury' from psychiatric drugs. Dr Singer explained that the clinical picture suggested Laura had been involuntarily intoxicated at the time of the alleged offence on June 1, as she had been unable to think rationally, clearly or competently to form intent to commit a crime.

A statement from the Metropolitan Police said: "In June 2021, police arrested a woman after concerns were raised for the welfare of children in her care. Specialist detectives were assigned investigate all the circumstances and gather potential evidence, and the woman was released on bail while this took place.

"Police will always try to ensure investigations are conducted as swiftly as possible, but must pursue all available evidence – in complex cases this can take some time. After all the evidence was compiled and presented to the Crown Prosecution Service, a decision was taken in February 2024 that the woman would face no further action.

"We are acutely aware of the stress a police investigation can have on all those involved, but officers have a duty to ensure all lines of enquiry are fully investigated before an outcome can be reached."

A Merton Council spokesperson said: “The welfare of children and their families is at the heart of the work we do, and our first priority is to safeguard those who are vulnerable or at risk in our community. We regularly work with other agencies to consider all aspects of a safeguarding situation to decide the most appropriate response.

“While we do not comment on individual cases, we take all complaints seriously and work hard to find resolutions to any issues raised about our services.”

A spokesperson for St George’s, Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals and Health Group said: “We strive to ensure all patients receive safe and compassionate care, and are very sorry to hear that Mrs Turner was unhappy with her experience in our hospitals. While Mrs Turner has previously raised some of her concerns with us directly, which we responded to, we are here should she wish to discuss or highlight anything further.”

The next part of Laura's story will be published tomorrow.

Laura has set up a fundraiser to help fund the treatment she now needs. You can donate here.

Got a story for us? Email anna.willis@reachplc.com.

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