Devastated Bognor Regis parents pay tribute to ‘kind-hearted’ son, 24

Joshua Bennett with his mother Donna and beloved dog, Digger
Joshua Bennett with his mother Donna and beloved dog, Digger

A mother and father have paid tribute to their ‘kind-hearted and hilariously funny’ son.

Joshua Bennett, 24, who lived in Clifton Road, Bognor Regis, died on January 20 this year, with an inquest in Chichester last week concluding his death was a ‘suicide whilst the balance of his mind was disturbed’.

Josh Bennett, pictured in November 2014

Josh Bennett, pictured in November 2014

More than 400 people went to the 24-year-old’s funeral in Bognor Regis in February.

Born on February 22, 1990, Joshua was a popular man loved by everyone who knew him, his family told the inquest.

Joshua’s mother Donna Bennett said he was ‘a bright happy child and very lovable towards close family and friends’.

Speaking afterwards, she said: “As a teenager he became a proficient squash player for Bognor Squash Club and reached county 
level standard.

Josh Bennett with his granddad,  Barry Peskett

Josh Bennett with his granddad, Barry Peskett

“He developed an interest in music very early on and so from his lessons at age 12 he became a skilled guitarist which led to a college course in music and excellent grades in his Music Diploma at Chichester College.

“Josh was a clever, funny, loyal and loving person which reflected on his many friends.

“A truly unique, colourful and vibrant soul, Josh was so kind hearted and hilariously funny.

“He will be both sorely missed and remembered by everyone who knew him.”

A young Josh (bottom left) with his brothers and dad SUS-150710-163212001

A young Josh (bottom left) with his brothers and dad SUS-150710-163212001

Coroner Penelope Schofield praised Joshua’s family for the ‘dignity’ they had shown throughout the inquest process.

The 24-year-old, who had been battling mental health problems, died after dousing himself in petrol and setting himself on fire on Aldwick Beach.

Joshua died at the scene and a post-mortem examination revealed he had died from the effects of the fire.

His father Art Bennett said Joshua was ‘loved by the entire family’ and had scores of friends who ‘loved his company and sense of humour’.

Joshua’s mental health problems became apparent when he was between 17 and 18, and his GP diagnosed him with mild depression.

However in 2009, his condition deteriorated and he was cared for by the Early Intervention Service (EIS) then the Assertive Outreach Team (AOT), based at The Bedale Centre in Bognor Regis.

Joshua was first sectioned in December, 2010.

In January this year he was admitted to Connolly House in Chichester.

The inquest heard how Joshua’s close friend died on January 1, 2015, which ‘affected Josh badly’.

On the day of his death Joshua was on a group visit to Arundel but was allowed to leave the group to catch a train from Arundel to Bognor Regis to meet his granddad.

But emergency services were called to Aldwick Beach around 2pm, where Joshua’s body was found.

His carer said Joshua showed no signs of a low mood on the day of his death. However his father said he was very intelligent and good at ‘masking his feelings’.

Mr Bennett said his son’s death had been a ‘devastating blow’ to his siblings.

Speaking at the inquest, Joshua’s family raised concerns about his care at Connolly House and the fact he was allowed on unattended leave on the day he died.

Mr Bennett told the inquest: “People with this illness are very skilled at appearing normal. I believe Joshua has been failed by the system and in order to prevent the unnecessary loss of life of another parent’s beautiful child, major procedural changes in respect of the awarding of leave to mentally ill people must be enacted.”

Donna told the Observer she had hoped the inquest would raise awareness of Section 17 leave, which can be used to grant patients short periods of leave from hospital. “I’d like to point out his care in the community, with AOT and EIS was constant and reassuring to a point. It was when under section he was failed again and again. The result of the so-called inquest is in my view a farce - a recommendation on section 17 leave, highlighted by the coroner in her summary, was not acted upon.”

A spokesman from Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust said: “We take any death extremely seriously and our sincere condolences go to Joshua Bennett’s family. We’re constantly working to improve our services and the support we offer to patients and their families. Working with families is extremely important; we don’t always get it right and it’s important we listen to and reflect upon feedback patients and families give us.”

Help is available for people going through tough times or experiencing suicidal thoughts via the Samaritans.

Call 08457 909090 or visit

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