Met trainer took own life after employer made mental health worse, inquest finds

A police officer
-Credit: (Image: Raylipscombe)


A Metropolitan Police trainer took her own life after the actions of her employer made her mental health worse, an inquest has found. Nicola “Nikki” Forster, 45, a safety training officer at Hendon Police College in north London, was found dead at her home in September 2022.

She developed PTSD as a result of her work during the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 and had been suffering with anxiety and depression, Central Bedfordshire Coroner’s Court previously heard. Concluding an inquest into her death at the same court on Monday, coroner Emma Whitting said line management decisions had contributed to “a further significant deterioration” in Ms Forster’s mental health.

The coroner also found Ms Forster could have been referred to occupational health for support and counselling at an earlier stage. Ms Forster had said to colleagues that her line manager, Inspector Hayley Webb, was “out to get her” and that she failed to act on requests for an occupational health referral, the inquest previously heard.

Ms Forster had also said to colleagues in text messages that Ms Webb was a bully who was “gunning” for her. Giving her findings, Ms Whitting said: “It is clear to the court that the Metropolitan Police service (MPS) were aware of Nikki’s mental health history and vulnerabilities. Furthermore, the MPS knew or could have discovered that her PTSD was work-related.

“Following Nikki’s decline in her mental health, there were opportunities for Nikki to have been referred to OH at an earlier stage for support and counselling.

“Line management decisions regarding Nikki reflected a focus on managing upwards and were supported by the senior leadership team; these were at the expense of Nikki’s personal and occupational welfare which contributed to a further significant deterioration in her mental health and, ultimately, to her death.”

Giving a narrative conclusion, the coroner added the worsening of Ms Forster’s mental health was “exacerbated” by the actions of her employer. Ms Forster’s mental health declined from autumn 2021, when she found herself under increasing pressure at work and had lost access to counselling, the inquest heard.

An occupational health referral was discussed with Ms Webb, her line manager, in November 2021 but was not progressed until May 2022, when she was also issued with informal management action.

During an absence review on July 20 2022, Ms Forster told a welfare officer that receiving a “not performing” grade on her recent performance review had “tipped her over the edge”, the court heard.

Ms Forster, who was born in Stockton-on-Tees, had been signed off from work approximately three months before her death, and had medication prescribed by her GP.

Ms Webb told the senior leadership team on September 6 2022 that Ms Forster’s PTSD was not work-related and “should not attract favourable discretion”, and her pay should not be extended as a result, the inquest heard.

The night before her death, Ms Forster told her partner Dr Amy Popple that she was struggling to sleep, the inquest previously heard. She was found dead in her house in Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, by Ms Popple on September 28 2022.

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