Paedophile aristocrat died after being given insulin ‘overdose’ by mistake

·5-min read
Simon Howard was declared unfit to stand trial after he suffered a fall that led to a brain haemorrhage - Camera Press/Michael Powell
Simon Howard was declared unfit to stand trial after he suffered a fall that led to a brain haemorrhage - Camera Press/Michael Powell

A disgraced aristocrat found to have been responsible for historic child sexual abuse died after being mistakenly given an insulin “overdose” in hospital, an inquest has heard.

Simon Howard, former custodian of Castle Howard in North Yorkshire, died suddenly last year aged 66, just months after a trial of facts found he indecently assaulted a six-year-old girl at the stately home in 1984.

A jury concluded in November 2021 that the father of two carried out the attack on the young girl at the gatehouse in the grounds of the estate, which was used as the backdrop for the hit series Bridgerton and Brideshead Revisited.

Howard, who denied the charge, was declared unfit to stand trial after he suffered a fall that led to a brain haemorrhage. He was left with significant brain damage.

It was in the aftermath of the shaming conclusion of the court case that Howard fell ill at home.

In February last year, he was found collapsed on the floor of his bedroom at the family home in Welham Hall, Norton, North Yorkshire. Howard was rushed to hospital on suspicion of having suffered a stroke.

Simon Howard was the former custodian of Castle Howard in North Yorkshire - Camera Press/Michael Powell
Simon Howard was the former custodian of Castle Howard in North Yorkshire - Camera Press/Michael Powell

He was admitted to York Hospital where he was prescribed insulin at a level 33 per cent above his usual dose, an inquest in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, was told.

Howard was treated and discharged on Feb 16 but readmitted as an emergency case three days later, having been kept on the higher dose of insulin.

The inquest heard that Howard died on Feb 27 and that the high level of insulin was likely to have been a major contributing factor.

The level of insulin taken by the long-term diabetic was wrongly recorded by a nurse in the accident and emergency department of the teaching hospital, the inquest heard.

The nurse spoke to Mr Howard’s PA Christine Sadler, who said she gave details of the correct doses that he had been taking, however, higher doses were recorded on his admission records.

The high dose was queried the following day by a pharmacist at the hospital but his concerns were overruled by a junior doctor in charge of the ward where Howard was being treated.

Overruled by doctor

A further query from the hospital’s pharmacy was also overruled by the same doctor, a young medic referred to only as “Doctor One” who was in the first two years of his hospital career.

A “serious incident investigation” into Howard’s care was conducted by Tara Kadis, lead diabetic nurse with York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals.

She told the inquest: “The fundamental issue was that in the emergency department when that telephone call took place, that nurse was very clear that that is what she heard and there was no safety net around that and no additional checking.

“The following day there was that additional checking but it was overruled.”

She said the junior doctor’s decision to overrule the concerns had been taken up by the hospital’s management team.

‘Excess insulin administration’

Sarah Watson, assistant coroner for North Yorkshire and York, recorded a narrative verdict that Howard “died as a consequence of the recognised exacerbating effects of excess insulin administration on pre-existing naturally occuring disease – diabetes – and a brain injury following a fall”.

The inquest had earlier been told of the fall at Welham Hall on Feb 17 2020, which caused permanent brain damage to Howard and ultimately resulted in him being unfit to stand trial the following year.

The inquest heard Howard’s son Merlin found him at the foot of the stairs at 10pm that night as he returned from a trip to the cinema.

Howard was rushed to hospital where it was noted there were signs of “possible alcohol intoxication”.

He had sustained “extensive skull fractures and various other fractures” and the fall resulted in “permanent damage to the patient’s brain”.

Ousted his brother

The hearing was attended by Howard’s elder brother and current custodian of Castle Howard, Nicholas Howard, who ousted his brother and took over residence and running of the family seat in 2015.

Following the hearing, Howard’s widow, Rebecca, said they never expected he would not return from hospital when he was taken ill.

Mrs Howard, a member of the Sieff family who founded Marks and Spencer, said: “I am grateful to the doroner for answering some of the questions we had about the circumstances of Simon’s death.

“Simon was far from being a well man – he suffered traumatic brain injuries from a fall downstairs at home in early 2020, he had recently had a suspected stroke and was struggling to manage his type 1 diabetes – but when he was admitted to hospital, none of us imagined that he wouldn’t be coming home.

“At least now we have a better understanding of what happened.”

‘Anxiously awaiting answers’

Mrs Howard, who did not attend the hearing, added that she and her children Merlin and Octavia had been anxiously awaiting answers, some of which they now had.

After the inquest, a spokesman for York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “We sincerely regret the circumstances of Mr Howard’s death and we apologise unreservedly to his family.

“We take situations such as the events surrounding Mr Howard’s death extremely seriously and all incidents of this nature are investigated thoroughly to prevent the likelihood of similar incidents happening again.

“This investigation resulted in significant learning and important changes, with new guidance and protocols for all staff in our hospitals, which have since been implemented.”