Family wants answers after death of man with dementia

Brian Salisbury
Brian Salisbury
Have your say

The family of a dementia sufferer have demanded answers over his death in prison.

Brian Salisbury, 61, who was also deaf-mute, had been suffering from dementia since last year and was on remand at Preston Prison, having been charged with two counts of arson for setting fire to his former flat and a bin.

He had no idea why he was in prison – he would tell you every crime he could think of, and I think he’d given up.

Rachel Mathieson

His family say he believed that was still his home and couldn’t understand why he couldn’t get inside; his confused and irrational behaviour was consistent with his dementia.

Although deemed unfit for trial by medical experts, he was denied bail and kept in prison because of a perceived risk to himself and other people.

But his family claim they warned a psychiatrist he would not survive the strain of being in prison for a reason he did not understand, and begged for him to be released on bail into the care of a family member.

Nine weeks after going into custody, 
Mr Salisbury was found dead in his cell from natural causes. Now his family want lessons to be learnt over his decline and for more compassion to be shown to people with dementia.

Daughter Rachel Mathieson said: “His last weeks were spent being mentally tortured. He had no idea why he was in prison – he would tell you every crime he could think of, and I think he’d given up.

“He died of a broken heart and it was completely avoidable. I don’t want any other family to have to go through this.”

While on bail for the first fire, Mr Salisbury, a grandfather of 10, lived with Rachel in Barrow-in-Furness for four-and-a-half months – she claims without any untoward incident.

But with concerns he was isolated from the rest of his family in Preston, it was agreed he would return home and a care package was put in place.

But shortly afterwards, a second fire was started at his former flat. Taken in for questioning and at that time undiagnosed with dementia, he was charged, appeared in court the next day, and was remanded in prison.

On the family’s request, his accommodation was reviewed and he was moved to the prison’s health care unit.

Dr Matt Appleyard, a consultant forensic psychiatrist from Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, was then appointed to assess Mr Salisbury. He diagnosed dementia and at first supported a bail application.

In a letter dated August 31, 2015, he wrote to Mr Salisbury’s solicitor stating: “It is my view that custody is not the most appropriate placement for Mr Salisbury due to his mental and social care needs.”

But just four days later, Dr Appleyard wrote again, recommending that bail should not be granted. He notes that on a later visit, Mr Salisbury had become “increasingly disinhibited”, drawing explicit material on walls, making fun of and goading other prisoners, waving a snooker cue at a prisoner and leaving staff feeling at risk of being physically assaulted. A judge took the doctor’s advice and bail was refused.

A move to a hospital was eventually decided upon, but was not due to happen until the day of his death.

“I thought I was getting a phone call to tell me he’d moved”, said Rachel. “Instead they rang to tell me they’d found him in his cell.

“I’d warned them he wouldn’t see the process through.

“When someone has dementia, environment is key, and my dad went downhill fast.

“After nine weeks of being inside he wasn’t the same man. He’d lost weight, he was stooped over and shuffling and unable to put a sentence together.

“The prison service can’t be faulted, they can only deal with what they’re given, but we’re angry with the doctors because they didn’t listen to his family, who know him best.

“He needed more compassionate care, he needed to be at home with us. They talk about these risks he apparently posed, but when he lived with me in Barrow for four-and-a-half months, there were no incidents.”

A Prison Service spokesman said: “HMP Preston prisoner Brian Salisbury was found unresponsive in his cell on Wednesday, October 14.

“Staff attempted CPR and paramedics attended but he was pronounced dead at around 9.30am.

“As with all deaths in custody, the independent prisons and probation ombudsman will conduct an investigation.”

A file on the death has been passed to the Preston coroner, but an inquest has not yet been opened.

Sandra Hands, assistant network director for Specialist Services at Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust said: “We would like to offer our sincerest condolences to the individual’s family and friends at this time. “Unfortunately we are unable to comment on individual cases however we would like to assure the family that all the necessary procedures were followed to ensure the correct care and treatment was provided to Mr Salisbury while in our services. It would not be appropriate to comment further at this time.”

Ms Hands added that a suitable placement was identified for Mr Salisbury in a more appropriate hospital environment and that the organisation was working with the external healthcare provider and Ministry of Justice to ensure all the correct assessments were undertaken and this was performed within the correct time scales.