Family of girl, 14, who died in Priory want to remember her as a boy

Family of transgender 14-year-old who killed herself in The Priory tell how they want her to be remembered as a boy and were helping her transition before tragedy as they blast clinic

  • Mother Tania El-Keria revealed her daughter Amy said she wanted to be a boy 
  • Felt relieved to have a solution for her daughter’s mental health struggles 
  • Painted her pink bedroom blue and even bought her a ‘binder vest’ for her chest 
  • Amy killed herself in the Priory before she could embrace her gender identity
  • Now devastated family want to remember the tragic 14-year-old as a boy 

The devastated family of a schoolgirl who killed herself in The Priory have told of their desire for her to be remembered as a boy, and revealed that when she died they were preparing for her to embrace a new identity as ‘Jacob’. 

Amy El-Keria suffered from a complex series of mental health difficulties, including Tourette’s, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and oppositional defiant disorder. She had made previous suicide attempts before she hanged herself in The Priory in 2012.

Now her family have revealed that in the months leading up to her death, they were helping her to prepare for her new life as a boy and had even picked a name – Jacob. 

Mother Tania El-Keria says she and daughter Gemma had repainted 14-year-old Amy’s pink bedroom blue, and had bought her a ‘binder vest’ the day that she killed herself to help with her transition.

Amy El-Keria suffered from a serious of complex mental health difficulties before she killed herself while staying in the Priory in 2012. Now her family have revealed in the months leading up to her death, they were preparing for her to transition into a boy called Jacob 

Serious failings at the Priory clinic in Ticehurst, East Sussex – fined £300,000 over her death in November 2012 on Wednesday – meant Amy’s life was cut short.  

Staff failed to suicide-proof her room, keep her under observation or perform the correct medical protocol once she was found. 

And now mother Tania has told how her ‘biggest regret’ is that she never brought her daughter home to live her true identity. 

She told the Sunday Mirror: ‘Now I want to show her as she wanted to be – where she looks more male, because this was her truth. This was who she was.’

Mother Tania El-Keria was left heartbroken by her daughter’s suicide, but now says she wants the teenager to be remembered as a boy 

Calling the Priory a ‘Victorian mental health institution’, sister Gemma revealed that she was constantly plagued by thoughts that they should take her sister out of the facility. 

But the family put their faith in medical professionals to protect their daughter, who ultimately killed herself during her stay. 

Amy’s mental health began to decline during puberty, but, against all odds, Amy’s family believed they may have found a way to help her when she said she wanted to be a boy. 

Mother Tania called it a relief to be told she was transgender and, though she was concerned about the struggles her daughter may face, she backed her in her transition one hundred per cent. 

Amy confided in her family before her death that she wanted to be a boy, and was overjoyed when they painted her pink bedroom blue 

Believing it could finally be the solution to Amy’s struggles, the family began to get help from the Tavistock Centre in London, the specialist hospital for patien­ts struggling with gender identity. 

But Amy’s health was getting worse and she was due to be admitted to the Ticehurst Priory to be assessed for Asperger’s Syndrome when she tried to take her own life at home.

It meant she was sent to the Priory early on August 22, 2011, for her own safety.

Months later, Tania was plunged into worry after a family friend went to pick her up for a visit home in October 2011 and was shocked by the state of the teenager’s room.

Earlier this week, The Priory was fined £300,000 after Amy killed herself while staying at the facility 

Meanwhile the family had painted her pink childhood bedroom blue and made it ‘safe’ so that she couldn’t hurt herself in order to help her embrace her new identity.

Amy was so happy with her new blue room that she burst into floods of tears.  

The day that Amy died in November, her family had ordered her a binder vest so she could take the next step to her true identity by flattening her chest.

Tania and daughter Gemma, pictured here outside the court earlier this week, have told how they both debated taking Amy out of The Priory, but trusted doctors to protect the troubled youngster 

But late that evening, Tania got a call to say Amy had attempted suicide.

She and daughter Gemma were driven to the Conquest Hospital in East Sussex, two hours from their home, where they were ushered into a room and told Amy had died. 

Tania was so devastated by the news that she collapsed. An inquest into Amy’s death concluded she had died from compression of the neck – and that her death had been contributed to by neglect. 

Tania said she was relieved when her daughter told her she was transgender, as the mother thought it could be the solution to all of her mental health struggles 

And a criminal case was bought against the hospital, and didn’t conclude for seven years, leaving the family with a lack of trust in the system. 

History of The Priory 

The Priory is one of the most famous mental health care providers in the world, known for treating A-list celebrities including Lily Allen, Johnny Depp and Amy Winehouse at its flagship hospital in Roehampton, south west London.

Built in 1811 before being converted into a hospital in 1872, the group now has more than 500 sites across the country, with around 7,000 beds available.

The Priory in Roehampton helps 90 patients at a time, and costs around £6,800 a week. Although their flagship hospital is incredibly expensive, around 70 per cent of patients across their hospitals are referred by the NHS.

Two years ago, The Priory was branded ‘unsafe’ in a devastating report by an official watchdog following a series of suicides and self-harming incidents by patients.

This includes the death of Stephen Bantoft, 49, who hanged himself less than three hours after checking into an acute psychiatric wing at the hospital.

He was the fourth apparent suicide in a Priory Group facility in as many years.

A jury inquest in 2016 was highly critical of the Priory, ruling staff failed to dial 999 quickly enough, failed to call a doctor promptly and were not trained in CPR. 

A ligature audit of her room, carried out by an untrained member of staff, identified medium risks which were not followed up. 

Details of a conversation on suicide Amy had with a nurse in the early hours of November 12 were not passed on to her doctor.

Amy’s mother Tania told the court that the ‘nightmare’ of losing her ‘spirited’ daughter left her feeling like her ‘heart and soul is ripped out every morning’. 

She admitted to having ‘low points where I have not wanted to be alive any more just so that I could be with Amy’.

Ms El-Keria added: ‘I hope that the knowledge gained from this case goes on to change what I see as a failing system and prevents future avoidable deaths.’

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) pursued a criminal investigation and the company admitted to a charge of being an employer failing to discharge its duty to ensure people were not exposed to health and safety risks.

The response of staff was so inadequate the jury agreed there was a possibility that Amy may have lived if she had received proper care. 

The court found that Amy may have lived if she had received proper care, with Amy’s family calling the Priory ‘morally-bankrupt’

Speaking outside Lewes Crown Court earlier this week, Amy’s mother said: ‘The public’s eye has been firmly opened to what the Priory stand for, profit over safety. 

‘Today is a historic day in our fight for justice for Amy. Our Amy died in what we know to be a criminally unsafe hospital being run by the Priory.’

She added: ‘This whole painful process has been marked by the Priory’s long and bitter failure to show any level of remorse or responsibility.

‘To us, the Priory are a morally-bankrupt company. They continue to take large sums of public money allowing our children to suffer by placing profit over safety.

Amy died after taking her own life in the health facility The Priory, having suffered from mental health difficulties for years  

‘This cannot be allowed to continue and I will not stop fighting until this stops.’ 

Now all she is left with are memories of her daughter. She said: ‘Knowing I can’t spend any time with her, seeing how she’d grow as a person is very tough.

‘Every day I think about her. It’s so upsetting that she can’t live her life.’

Nearly half of all taxpayers’ money spent on Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) last year went to private sector firms such as The Priory Group. 

Tania and her daughter Tania have been granted £300,000 over Amy El-Keria’s suicide, but say they’re now keen to remember her as the boy she really was 

A spokesman for The Priory Group, fined £300,000 over Amy El-Keria’s suicide, said: ‘We would like to repeat our sincere and profound apologies to her family.

‘Following the incident, we took significant steps to strengthen those areas at the hospital where the court found there were weaknesses.

‘The hospital is making substantial progress under an experienced senior management team.’

The family were guided in their pursuit of justice by charity, which provides expertise on state-related deaths.

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