An inquiry is under way after a suicidal man who seriously injured a family of five in a car crash died in the care of mental health professionals before his sentencing.

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David Smith took his mother’s VW Golf without permission before ramming it into a Toyota Yaris, in an attempt to take his own life at the A11 Elveden crossroads, near Thetford, on January 5 last year.

When The 29-year-old appeared before Ipswich Crown Court to plead guilty to dangerous driving and aggravated vehicle taking he was said to have had a morbid fascination with killing himself.

Although Smith sustained relatively minor injuries, he left the occupants of the Toyota requiring emergency treatment.

A girl, aged 13, suffered a dislocated hip. Another girl, aged 15, sustained a fractured arm, a bleed on the brain and a fractured facial bone, while a 19-year-old woman had a fractured leg.

A 49-year-old man had fractures to the base of his spine, legs and chest, while a 48-year-old woman sustained fractures and a dislocated elbow. All were from Gillingham in Kent.

After Smith’s guilty plea in August he was released into the residential care of mental health specialists in Coventry.

It was intended that he be brought back to Ipswich Crown Court, but the sentencing never went ahead. The case was subsequently closed.

It has now emerged Smith, formerly of Central Avenue, Coventry, died on October 11 last year at University Hospital in Clifford Bridge Road, Coventry.

At the time Smith – who was originally arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, was being treated by the Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust.

A full inquest is still to held, although a hearing is scheduled to take place at Coventry Magistrates Court next Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for the coroner in Coventry said the initial cause of death has been given as external compression of the neck.

An inquiry has also begun at the health trust.

A spokesman for the Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust, said: “Any unexpected death of a patient in our care will be the subject of a formal, internal investigation in which we try to learn any lessons that might arise from the events that took place.

“We will also co-operate fully with any external investigation that police, the coroner or any other agency need to carry out.

“At present, we are awaiting the outcome of the coroner’s inquest into this case, and so have no further comment to make at this time.”

At Smith’s plea hearing, his barrister Steven Dyble, the court his client had suffered from schizophrenia for the last decade and had a “morbid fascination” with killing himself.

The court was also told Smith was trying to kill himself at the moment the A11 crash took place.

Judge David Goodin adjourned the case for psychiatric reports to be prepared, with a view to the court making a hospital order under the Mental Health Act.

Smith, who only had a provisional driving licence, also pleaded guilty to driving otherwise than in accordance with a licence and having no insurance.

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