A SCHIZOPHRENIC man who had slit his wrists the day before is thought to have jumped in front of a van on the A40 after disappearing from hospital.

An inquest at Oxford Coroner's Court heard that 20-year-old Stuart Bell, of Cow Lane, Grove, was hit by the van driven by Barry Freeman at about 11.30pm on November 23 last year on a stretch of the dual carriageway near Forest Hill.

Mr Freeman, a mechanic from Headington, Oxford, told the court he and his colleague, Leigh Rogers, were on their way to Milton Common Depot to deal with a broken-down vehicle when the incident happened.

He said: "As we approached the exit of the Forest Hill layby, this figure just appeared and I collided with it. It appeared to me that he jumped, though I couldn't be sure. It happened that quickly, there was nothing I could have done."

Steven Rimmer, a security guard from Forest Hill, who was walking home when the accident happened, called the emergency services, but Mr Bell suffered serious head injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene.

In a statement, Mr Bell's GP said his patient was diagnosed with schizophrenia several years ago and had a history of self-harming.

He had been referred from Littlemore Hospital to the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, on November 22 to be treated for self-inflicted cuts to his wrists, but had left.

Staff nurse Oliver Balicao said they were superficial cuts that he did not believe were intended to kill.

Nicholas Rose, a psychiatrist with the Vale community mental health team, said Mr Bell was receiving treatment for mental health problems, sometimes undermined by his smoking cannabis and occasionally forgetting to take his prescribed medicine.

Mr Rose said Mr Bell had cut his arms several times and once walked among moving traffic while in an "agitated" state.

Coroner Nicholas Gardiner recorded an open verdict as he said it could not be proved conclusively that Mr Bell intended to take his own life.

But he added that he was 'quite satisfied' that there was nothing Mr Freeman could have done to avoid the collision.