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Suicide notes left behind

Sex assault accused hung himself in cell block

By Peter McVerry

Published 28/04/2000

A BELFAST man accused of a series of indecent assaults on teenage boys was discovered hanging in his cell while in custody, Belfast Coroner's Court has heard.

A BELFAST man accused of a series of indecent assaults on teenage boys was discovered hanging in his cell while in custody, Belfast Coroner's Court has heard.

The body of Mark Anthony Franklin (20), from Woodside Walk, Poleglass, was discovered in a single cell at Hydebank Young Offenders Centre in the early hours of Sunday July 4, 1999.

A pillowcase had been torn into strips and a section tied around his neck with the other end attached to a window grille, prison officers told the jury inquest.

A brown envelope containing nine separate suicide notes to family and friends and two poems was also discovered in the room.

The unemployed computer engineer had earlier been remanded in custody by Lisburn Magistrates' Court after being charged with five counts of indecent assault against teenage boys.

Mr Franklin had voluntarily gone to the RUC to confess to the offences which occurred between 1997 and 1999 when he was a leader at the Poleglass Community Youth Club.

The inquest heard that Mr Franklin had originally stayed at a hostel in central Belfast after being arrested but was unhappy there and moved to stay with a friend in Bangor.

Hovever, when police found that there were three children living at that address, they decided it would be better to keep the accused in custody until alternative accommodation had been arranged.

The deceased's mother, Beatrice, told the inquest although her son had not mentioned the possibility of suicide when she visited him in Hydebank, she believed he had taken his own life.

He had made a previous unsuccessful attempt through an overdose before being taken into custody.

Prison officers from Hydebank and a clinical psychologist, Dr James Murray, told the inquest that they had not instigated any special suicide precautions for Mr Franklin because there were no signs he was contemplating suicide.

Dr Murray told the inquest that he had directly questioned the inmate on the topic of suicide during a 30-minute interview but found Mr Franklin was "adamant" that he had no intention of committing suicide.

Indeed, he had told the psychologist that he was glad his previous attempt had failed, particularly because so many family and friends had stood by him.

The jury of three men and four women recorded that the deceased had died by his own act.

Extending his sympathies to the family, Coroner John Leckey said the entire event had been a tragedy for the family.

He said: "I am sure you felt that once Mark had admitted what had happened and gone to the police voluntarily a corner had been turned and, at the end of the day, things might turn out for the better.

"I am satisfied you had no warning of what was to happen and when it did happen it was an awful shock to you."

Belfast Telegraph

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