Officers miss inmate death

Christopher Oldham
Christopher Oldham
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An inmate on “suicide watch” was left in his cell at Preston Prison for more than three hours after hanging himself before he was discovered, an inquest was told.

Christopher Oldham, 36, should have been checked every 30 minutes after prison officers were warned he was high risk.

But a Home Office pathologist told the hearing at Preston that CCTV footage showed him making a noose out of his shoelaces at 9.22pm and hanging himself. It was not until 12.30am that a guard noticed something was wrong and raised the alarm.

Dr Alison Armour said death would have been rapid, with loss of consciousness within three to 10 seconds and life extinct after around 30 seconds. Resuscitation attempts would probably have been futile after that.

Mr Oldham, a self-employed builder from Blackpool, was on remand accused of breaching an order not to contact his estranged wife. He had been prescribed anti-depressants after his marriage broke down and he was not able to see his young daughter.

The inquest heard there had been at least four previous suicide attempts. When he was admitted to HMP Preston he told a nurse he had been “hearing voices and crying a lot.” The nurse referred him for assessment by the jail’s mental health team.

Prison staff nurse Robert Tomlinson said: “He stated that he had tried to harm himself in the past with a drug overdose. He had been having mental health treatment in the community and he took medication.”

As a result Mr Oldham was not thought to be suitable for cell-sharing.

Dr Armour carried out a post-mortem examination and ruled there was no evidence of any assault. She said death had been due to hanging. The inquest is expected to take almost three weeks.