A series of failings by police and mental health professionals may have contributed to the death of a 12-year-old boy who was run over and killed by a paranoid schizophrenic driver, an inquest concluded.

Terence Glover drove his car into a crowd of children outside Debden Park High School in Loughton, Essex, on December 2, 2019 – killing Harley Watson.

Glover had previously expressed paranoid beliefs that he was being persecuted and he told police in 999 calls that “he might run some schoolchildren over”.

He was arrested in September 2019 by police investigating offences of malicious communications, but following a Mental Health Act assessment – which lasted less than three minutes – he was not detained, an inquest heard.

A jury concluded on Thursday, following a nine-day inquest in Chelmsford, that Harley was killed unlawfully.

They recorded that the mental health assessment of Glover was “inadequate and we determine that this inadequacy led to a failure in possibly detaining the perpetrator under the Mental Health Act”.

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Among other factors listed as “possibly the cause or more than minimal contributions to the death of Harley” were police failing to progress their investigation of Glover with “speed and targeted precision”.

They said the “failure of information sharing between the involved services is inexcusable”.

The jurors found that Glover had driven into the crowd of children “in the irrational belief that doing so would highlight his frustration at the police’s response to his deluded claims of persecution by others”.

Harley died in hospital of a severe head injury soon after he was struck.

After carrying out his attack, Glover was found by police in his car in a pub car park several miles away.

Glover admitted to the manslaughter by diminished responsibility of Harley at Snaresbrook Crown Court.

He also admitted to the attempted murders of one adult and nine children, who were also injured in the attack.

He was sentenced last year, while aged 52, to be detained indefinitely under the Mental Health Act.

Following the inquest, Harley’s mother Jo Fricker said: “We believe, and the evidence from several witnesses agreed, that had these significant and serious failings not occurred, Harley would still be alive today.

“We miss him terribly.”

She went on: “Glover’s repeated and known threats to run over and harm children were not effectively acted upon by state agencies.

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“He was allowed to be dangerous, untreated, and at liberty on the day he killed Harley.

“The evidence showed the police investigation into Glover’s criminal acts, before he killed Harley, was totally inadequate – it was seriously flawed.”

She said she was “appalled by what has come to light during the inquest – the numerous and repeated failings to keep people safe”.

Ms Fricker said family will spend the next 24 hours “planning a celebration for Harley’s 15th birthday without him”.

Deputy chief constable Andy Prophet, of Essex Police, said: “On behalf of the force, I would like to offer my sincere apologies for the failings by Essex Police identified at the inquest.

“As a father of two, I cannot imagine anything worse than the trauma Harley’s family are going through, and the devastation and frustration they must feel.

“It goes without saying that we accept in full the findings of the inquest.

“We have not waited until today to amend the way information is shared between the medical experts in mental health and the police.

“We have delivered more training to our contact handlers and our colleagues who respond to the calls we receive for help.

“I’m confident we have learned from this and that the changes we’ve made will ensure our county is even safer.”

Following the inquest, Roger Hirst, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex also said: “This is a tragic case and my heart goes out to Harley Watson’s family and friends and all of the victims whose lives have been so impacted by Terence Glover’s actions.

“No parent should have to go through what Harley’s parents have gone through and no child should have their life so cruelly taken away by a vicious, selfish act.

“As the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex I have oversight of Essex Police.

“It is clear to me from the evidence provided throughout the inquest and the jury’s narrative conclusion that much more could and should have been done prior to the incident.

“We work hard within the emergency services to protect people and make their lives better, but in this case, collectively we let Harley down. I am truly sorry for that.

“I have been briefed throughout the case by the Chief Constable and he has assured me that significant improvements have already been implemented.

“Improving how the force identify, assess, respond to and share with partners the threats they receive, especially when this relates to cases where mental health appears to be a factor, is vital to reduce the risk of such as awful situation happening again.

“Sadly a lack of adequate information sharing is a consistent theme across tragic incidents like the unlawful killing of Harley and sufficient improvements are simply not being achieve and we must make a systemic change to how public services share information.  

“I will continue to work closely with the Chief Constable to ensure these changes are fully implemented and the force is doing all that it can to implement the lessons learnt from this case.”