ZB

'Oh my God no': Talented musician ended own life after bludgeoning flatmate

Author
Open Justice,
Publish Date
Thu, 26 May 2022, 7:01am
A talented guitarist, Phill Dryson had suffered from mental health issues since he was 15. In September 2018 he attacked his flatmate before ending his own life. Photo / Facebook
A talented guitarist, Phill Dryson had suffered from mental health issues since he was 15. In September 2018 he attacked his flatmate before ending his own life. Photo / Facebook

'Oh my God no': Talented musician ended own life after bludgeoning flatmate

Author
Open Justice,
Publish Date
Thu, 26 May 2022, 7:01am

WARNING: This story deals with suicide and may be distressing.

An Auckland musician bludgeoned his flatmate with a cast-iron skillet moments before taking his own life.

The death of Phillip William Dryson, 42, early on September 22, 2018, has been determined as self-inflicted by Coroner Bruce Hesketh in a decision released publicly today.

Hesketh said the beginning of Dryson's assault on his flatmate, who has name suppression, was overheard by a mental health crisis worker who was on the phone to the woman when Dryson's behaviour escalated.

"The staff member records hearing incoherent shouting in the background and the female on the phone yelling 'Oh my God no'.

"There was then the sound of crashing noises and more yelling before the phone cut off."

The call taker immediately phoned 111. The scuffle they overheard was the flatmate trying to stop Dryson leaving the apartment carrying a backpack and a hammer.

Dryson, who had been depressed that afternoon and began acting aggressively after washing down several sleeping pills with alcohol, reacted by running and jumping head first through the open kitchen window.

Dryson's flatmate managed to pull him back in the window even though the upper half of his body was outside.

Once back inside the woman closed the window and tried to call 111.

"As she did that, Mr Dryson picked up a bread knife and started trying to stab her with it," the Coroner wrote.

"He did this several times but was not able to cause her any injury with the knife as it was blunt-nosed and had blunt edges."

Dryson dropped the knife and picked up a solid, cast-iron frypan about 30 centimetres in diameter, Hesketh said.

"He began hitting his flatmate with the frypan around her head. She suffered cuts to her head as a result.

"She went back to the kitchen window, opened it and screamed out for help."

The woman ran outside and called 111. She then got into the car of a passerby who noticed she had blood on her face.

He had heard the commotion above and also rang 111. Moments later Dryson took his own life. The manner in which he died cannot be reported.

The woman was later critical of the Auckland District Health Board saying its mental health services failed Dryson.

She was critical of the mental health crisis alert system, which works by a call taker passing on the caller's details to an urgent response worker who then phones the caller.

But Hesketh disagreed. He said the caller could ring 111 in the first instance if they wanted.

He said though Dryson had suffered mental health problems since he was 15, he was not at the time a committed patient.

Dryson came to the attention of Auckland DHB after an arrest on February 14 that year for possession of an offensive weapon when members of the public became concerned about his behaviour on Karangahape Rd.

He was carrying a knife and hammer that day, kicked over a rubbish bin and was acting aggressively toward others.

The same day, Dryson posted on social media he was going to kill someone for entertainment.

He was diagnosed with having a brief psychotic episode on the background of major depressive disorder caused suddenly by stress and alcohol use.

Such episodes are known to occur in people with autism, the coroner was told, and Dryson was given this diagnosis. His psychiatrist also said he presented as a man with schizoid personality traits.

Dryson had been under the care of a private psychiatrist since 1993 when he began suffering symptoms of depression and obsessive behaviour.

He had been prescribed various antipsychotic drugs since then, as well as lithium.

In 2013 his then girlfriend notified Auckland DHB mental health services Dryson was having "violent fantasies" and carrying around a hammer for comfort but she gave no further details and Dryson was not admitted.

In 2018 he moved in with the flatmate he would go on to assault, after being assessed by ADHB following his February 14 arrest.

The following month the flatmate rang mental health services worried about Dryson's risk of self-harm.

Hesketh said Dryson went on to attend seven group therapy sessions aimed at tackling mental health issues but did not attend two the month before he died.

On the night of his death Dryson took an excess of a hypnotic and sedative sleeping tablet and drank alcohol with it.

His flatmate told Open Justice she did not believe Dryson had schizoid personality traits.

"Sufferers of schizoid personality disorder are typically defined as people who have a severely limited ability to make social connections.

"Hundreds of people came to Phill's funeral - it was overflowing - people had to stand in the car park.

"We had messages from all over the world, including travellers from the US, who met him at random, and said he was a 'big part of what made our first night in New Zealand so unforgettable'."

Dryson's photo was kept on the bar at his local pub for almost two years, she said.

"Phill was well-loved by his community. He was an incredible musician, and he was a lovely friend to have.

"Phill was entirely failed by a dysfunctional and severely underfunded mental health system."

- Natalie Akoorie, Open Justice

WHERE TO GET HELP
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youth services: (06) 3555 906
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• What's Up: 0800 942 8787 (11am to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• Helpline: 1737
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111