A former rugby player from Amersham, who died just after Christmas in 2015 following a struggle with mental health issues and drug use, was “let down” by the public bodies responsible for keeping him safe, an inquest heard.

Jack Portland, 29, who played for Amersham and Chiltern, died on December 27 after spending time at two mental health facilities, The Whiteleaf Centre, Aylesbury, and The Dene, West Sussex, after getting arrested and jailed for shoplifting in April 2015.

An inquest was launched on January 23, and lasted until February 3, when the jury concluded there had been a “range of failures” by HMP Woodhill and Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust when in custody and when he was sectioned under the Mental Health Act in hospital.

Mr Portland failed to return to The Whiteleaf Centre following a period of unescorted leave on December 27, and was found dead.

The inquest heard his absence went unnoticed for an hour-and-a-half after he was due to return, and the police were not called for more than two hours. His family were also not informed he was missing.

Mr Portland was described as being popular at school, and friends and family said he was “lively” and “outgoing”.

He struggled with drug addiction and the jury heard he had deliberately shoplifted in “desperation”, in the belief that he could get clean in prison.

Instead, he was expose to widespread availability of the drug Spice and developed psychotic symptoms for the first time, with his parents’ concerns about their son going “unanswered”, the inquest also heard.

Failings were found by the jury in the discharge and resettlement process at HMP Woodhill. A spokesman for the family said: “Aftercare is essential for vulnerable prisoners returning to the community.

“HMP Woodhill has been repeatedly criticised by coroners and the prison and probation ombudsman for shortcomings in its safety procedures and protection for its most vulnerable prisoners.”

The jury also found four categories of failure at The Whiteleaf Centre - they found failings in risk assessment process, communication with Jack's family, leave systems and how they respond to patients absent without leave (awol).

In a statement released after the verdict, Mr Portland’s family said: “Losing a loved one is very difficult, losing a child in tragic circumstances is a lifetime sentence in regret; knowing the life experiences we all enjoy have been cut short for him, wishing things were different.

“One of the last things Jack ‘wrote’ was ‘life's short, don't be lazy’; good advice son and I hope we have done you justice.

“We value the opportunity to participate in the inquest process and the resulting findings of the jury.

“The culmination of the inquest process and the recognition of Jack as a person, exhibiting and experiencing a constellation of health concerns, demonstrated by the jury’s finding that there were failings in his care, is some relief to us.

“However we are saddened that the experience of people with impaired mental health, coupled with addiction, is continuing to be misunderstood, a stigma applied and their care mismanaged.

“It’s evident that society still has a long way to go in treating everyone with equal concern. The family will continue to try and effect a positive change for people in need of support and understanding.”