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Anthony Billy, who burned alive in Croydon woodland, told care worker of drug debt in days before death, inquest told

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A MAN who burned to death in Croham Hurst Woods told his care worker in the weeks before it happened that he owed money to a drug dealer, an inquest has heard. Anthony Billy, 32, died after suffering major burns in South Croydon woodland on January 19, 2011. Police decided his death was "non-suspicious" but the investigation was reopened last year following concerns raised by Mr Billy's family, including that officers had failed to look into claims that he had been murdered because of a drugs debt. An inquest which began this week at Croydon Coroner's Court has heard that Mr Billy was living at Russell Hill Lodge, a mental health care home in Purley, at the time of his death. While he had paranoid schizophrenia, health professionals and his family had seen a significant improvement in his condition since moving to the home in August 2010. He remained a regular user of cannabis and, in the months before he died, had told his key worker Rebecca Yates on several occasions that he owed money to a drug dealer. In a note read out by Coroner Selena Lynch, dated January 16, Ms Yates wrote that she had spoken again with Mr Billy about owing money for drugs. "I asked him if he was scared that the person he owed money to would hurt him," she said. "He said: 'I don't know. I hope not.'He said he was two days late with his payment and that he hoped his friend gives [the money to the drug dealer]. "I'm concerned, but I'm aware the care team knows he owes someone money and they suspect it's a drug dealer." Junie Foster, Mr Billy's care coordinator, told the court she had been aware of the supposed debt from reading Ms Yates's notes. "I raised it with him but he said that Rebecca was exaggerating," said Ms Foster, who was due to hold a further meeting with Mr Billy and care home staff about the issue on January 20, the day after he died. Dr Kim Sutherby, a consultant psychiatrist, said that, when unwell, Mr Billy suffered from delusions about "aliens and insects", but added that he was "doing well" at Russell Hill Lodge, which is run by South London and Maudsley (SlaM) NHS Trust. Ms Yates, who was not present in court, described Mr Billy in her statement as "extremely well liked" and said he had made progress with the goals she had set him. However, she said his mental state had deteriorated in the weeks leading up to his death. He became "quiet" and mentioned his "fantasy world" more frequently, including his interest in a god of fire, and of water. While he had "hallucinations about fire", Ms Yates said she never saw him play with matches or start one, nor was there anything in his history to suggest he would deliberately do so. The court heard Mr Billy was on an "appointeeship" – meaning he did not have direct access to his money – and that he was making increasing requests for cash, at times for small amounts but on one occasion for £250 to buy Christmas presents for his family, which he never bought. On the afternoon of his death, Mr Billy asked Ronald Chiwome, the manager of the care home, for £5. When he refused, Mr Billy "stormed out". Staff described his behaviour as "out of character". Mr Chiwome said he seemed "irritable" and "angry". That was 2.44pm. Mr Billy was spotted on CCTV at the Esso garage on Brighton Road half an hour later. He bought a petrol can and filled it with fuel. Mr Chiwome is one of the few people to have seen the footage before it was accidentally deleted by the police during the download process. He told the court: "The surprising thing is that [Mr Billy] appeared quite calm. He didn't seem under any pressure." Around 20 minutes later Mr Billy was spotted in Croham Hurst Woods. Ambulance crews, police and firefighters were called to reports of a man on fire. Paramedics tried to treat Mr Billy, but he died at the scene. All the mental health professionals who had contact with Mr Billy agreed that he had never shown any inclination towards taking his own life or hurting himself. In a police statement, Ms Yates later wrote: "[Mr Billy] showed no sign that he wished to end his life. He was talking about the future and being independent." Results of the new police investigation, which was prompted by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, are expected to be released after the inquest. The inquest continues."Anthony had strong views about suicide" ANTHONY Billy's brother does not believe he would have taken his own life. In a statement read out by coroner Selena Lynch, Andrew Billy said he had spoken with his older brother about suicide following the death of his girlfriend, Nkysher Wedderburn, 24, in April 2010. Andrew, who admitted regularly smoking cannabis and crack cocaine with his brother, said: "I was at a very low point. I remember having a conversation with him about how I was feeling and that I had been on antidepressants and had thought about suicide. "He reacted very strongly, telling me I was an idiot. He said he wanted to punch me in the mouth for even thinking about it. "He had strong views about suicide, which is one of the reasons I don't believe Anthony committed suicide. Someone else was there."​"Mr Billy told school friend 'bad people' out to get him" ANTHONY Billy told an old school friend in the days before his death that "bad people were after him", the inquest was told on Tuesday. His mother, Sandra Billy, said a man called Darren, who worked as a window cleaner for a neighbour, approached her after the tragedy with some information. "He told me he went to school with Anthony and had last seen him on January 17," she said. "He said [Anthony] was talking about these bad people that were after him, that they were trying to get rid of him. "Darren said at the time he thought Anthony had been smoking something. It was only after he heard Anthony had died that he thought there might be something more to it." A few days earlier, Sandra and her daughter Simmone Simpson had been to a police station to collect some of Mr Billy's belongings. While there, they were told for the first time that the fluid used had been diesel. Mrs Billy recalled: "As Darren left, he turned to me and said that one thing puzzled him – why did they use diesel and not petrol? "I didn't understand how he could have known that. I had only just found out and I hadn't told a soul." Asked why she did not pass the information to the police, she said: "I didn't at the time because I thought they would just say it was hearsay."

Anthony Billy, who burned alive in Croydon woodland, told care worker of drug debt in days before death, inquest told


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