‘Brideshead Revisited’ aristocrat, 66, who avoided jail for sexually abusing six-year-old girl because of brain damage he suffered in fall died after being mistakenly given insulin ‘overdose’ in hospital, inquest hears

  • Inquest at North Yorkshire heard he was given insulin 33% above usual dose
  • The wrong level was recorded by an A&E nurse at York Hospital in 2022

A shamed aristocrat found to have been responsible for historical child sexual abuse died after being mistakenly given an insulin ‘overdose’ in hospital, an inquest has heard.

The sudden death of Hon Simon Howard, 66, the former custodian of Castle Howard, one of Britain’s finest stately homes, brought further devastation to a family still reeling from the loss of his reputation. 

The inquest in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, heard that the 66-year-old was prescribed insulin at a level that was 33% above his usual dose.

While he was treated and discharged last February, he was readmitted as an emergency case three days later having been kept on the higher dose of insulin.

The hearing was told that Howard tragically died on February 27 2022, and the high level of insulin in his system was likely to have been the contributing factor towards his death.

Following the hearing today his widow, Rebecca Howard, said they never expected he would not return from hospital when he was taken ill.

The aristocrat’s death came three months after he was found to have been responsible for the abuse of a young girl who stayed at his home in the 1980s.

Mr Howard had been the custodian of Castle Howard – the backdrop to popular TV shows Bridgerton and Brideshead Revisited – and ran the house for 30 years. 

A Serious Incident investigation into Hon Simon Howard’s (pictured above) care was conducted by Tara Kadis, lead diabetic nurse with York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals

Following the hearing today his widow, Rebecca Howard (formerly Sieff, pictured above)), said they never expected he would not return from hospital when he was taken ill.

His frail health meant that he was declared unfit for a trial at York Crown Court in 2021.

However, a trial of the facts was still carried out in his absence, and the jury decided that he was guilty of the sexual assault.

It was in the aftermath of the shaming conclusion of the court case that saw Howard fall ill at his home.

On February 16 2022, he was found collapsed on the floor or his bedroom at the family home in Welham Hall, Norton, North Yorkshire.

Following this, he was rushed to hospital on suspicion of having suffered a stroke.

However, when he was admitted, the level of insulin taken by the long-term diabetic was wrongly recorded by a nurse in the Accident and Emergency department of York Hospital.

The 66-year-old was prescribed medicine containing 24 units of insulin in the morning and 30 in the evening before being discharged the following day. 

She spoke to Mr Howard’s PA Christine Sadler, who gave the correct doses that he had been taking, however higher doses were recorded on his admission records. 

Ms Sadler told the inquest that only weeks previously, his usual dose at home had been 18 units in the morning and the same in the evening. 

The high dose administered was queried the following day by a pharmacist at the hospital and North Yorkshire assistant coroner Sarah Watson said it was unclear how the discrepancy in the amount of insulin prescribed came about

However, the pharmacist’s concerns were overruled by a junior doctor in charge of the ward where Howard was being treated.  

Two further queries from the hospital’s pharmacy were also overruled by the same doctor, a young medic referred to only as Doctor One who was in the first two years of his hospital career. 

The inquest today had also been told earlier of the fall at Welham Hall on February 17th 2020, which caused permanent brain damage to Howard and ultimately resulted in him being unfit to stand trial the following year 

The Howard family name was tarnished by the trial at York Crown Court, after the jury decided that the aristocrat did sexually assault a young girl in the mid-1980s  (pictured, Simon Howard and his wife Rebecca)

A Serious Incident investigation into Howard’s care was conducted by Tara Kadis, lead diabetic nurse with York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals. 

She told the inquest: ‘The fundamental issue was that in the emergency department when that telephone call took place, that nurse was very clear that that is what she heard and there was no safety net around that and no additional checking. 

‘The following day there was that additional checking but it was overruled.’  

She said the junior doctor’s decision to overrule the concerns had been taken up by the hospital’s management team. 

Richard Borrett, for the Howard family, said that in the family’s opinion the ‘inadvertent high dose’ the hospital prescribed was best described as an overdose.  

Christine Sadler said that in her opinion Howard should not have been discharged from hospital on February 16th, the day after he was admitted, telling the hearing: ‘I didn’t feel he was fit for discharge. He came home and was not happy. 

‘I made a call the following day to check his discharge notes because they were not clear, ‘

Sarah Watson delivered her verdict on the case at 2pm today.

She recorded a narrative verdict that Howard ‘died as a consequence of the recognised exacerbating effects of excess insulin administration on pre-existing naturally occuring disease – diabetes – and a brain injury following a fall.’

Howard stepped down from running Castle Howard in 2015 after 30 years amid an apparent falling-out with his brother 

Mr Howard had been the custodian of Castle Howard – the backdrop to films and the hit TV shows Bridgerton and Brideshead Revisited – and ran the house for 30 years.

But, after a family disagreement, he moved out of the stately home and was living nearby in Welham Hall.

After the inquest, his loved ones released a statement saying they had been anxious to learn what had happened to him.

Mrs Howard, a member of the Sieff family who founded Marks and Spencer, said: ‘I am grateful to the coroner for answering some of the questions we had about the circumstances of Simon’s death.

‘Simon was far from being a well man – he suffered traumatic brain injuries from a fall downstairs at home in early 2020, he had recently had a suspected stroke and was struggling to manage his Type 1 diabetes – but when he was admitted to hospital, none of us imagined that he wouldn’t be coming home.

‘At least now we have a better understanding of what happened.’

The inquest today had also been told earlier of the fall at Welham Hall on February 17th 2020, which caused permanent brain damage to Howard and ultimately resulted in him being unfit to stand trial the following year. 

The inquest heard Howard’s son Merlin found him at the foot of the stairs at 10pm that night as he returned from a trip to the cinema. 

READ MORE: Behind the facade of Castle Howard, one of our greatest stately homes, lay a real-life drama of sex abuse and sibling rivalry. Now the saga has ended with a tragic twist and the full story can be told, writes RICHARD KAY 

The 66-year-old was then rushed to hospital where it was noted there were signs of ‘possible alcohol intoxication.’ 

He had sustained ‘extensive skull fractures and various other fractures’ and the fall resulted in ‘permanent damage to the patient’s brain.’ 

The hearing was attended by Howard’s elder brother and current custodian of Castle Howard, Hon Nicholas Howard, who controversially took over residence in 2015. 

And when Nicholas Howard was asked by the coroner whether there was anything he wished to say about his brother to the court, he declined the opportunity to pay a personal tribute.

The Howard family name was tarnished by the trial at York Crown Court, which ended in November 2021, after the jury decided that the aristocrat did sexually assault the young girl in the mid-1980s and incite her to commit an act of gross indecency.  

The jury heard harrowing evidence from the victim, now a mother in her 40s, and Howard’s subsequent denial to police. 

In a victim impact statement the woman, who reported the incident to her mother at the time, said she felt the sexual abuse on her was ‘swept under the carpet’ because of Howard’s social standing. 

A further alleged attempted rape victim came forward in 2021 after hearing about the child abuse charges. 

She had previously told close family members how Howard had tried to rape her in her bed at night in the mid-2000s, but was ‘advised and encouraged to conclude’ it would be a ‘traumatic experience’ to report him. 

This allegation was left to lie on the file after the prosecution decided it was not in the public interest to take the case to a second finding of fact trial.

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