A member of the INLA gang that murdered LVF leader Billy Wright had regular access to non-prescription drugs before he hanged himself in his cell, the Prisoner Ombudsman has found.
John Kenneway hanged himself with a shoelace in his cell in Maghaberry Prison on June 8, 2007, four months after he was returned to custody following the revoking of his licence.
A report into his death by Prisoner Ombudsman Pauline McCabe has revealed that Kenneway had been taking non-prescription drugs, such as cannabis and diazepam, “extensively” before his death. The drugs were smuggled in by visitors or purchased from other inmates.
Five days before his death he was recorded in a phone call talking about a party in the jail. He said: “We had a party and sure I was f***** out of my head for two days.”.
A forensic toxicologist said that Kenneway had not taken a recent dose of diazepam and had not been under the influence of cannabis when he died, but added that symptoms of withdrawal may include anxiety and depression.
The report also raised concern about the Special Supervision Unit (SSU) where Mr Kenneway was being held for his own protection. The SSU is used for prisoners who are confined to a cell as punishment or for their own protection or the protection of others.
The 45-year-old had a history of depression and self-harm. The report said that medication was prescribed but no psychological or psychiatric assessment was planned or took place between his committal interview in February 2007 and a consultation with a prison doctor the day before he died. Kenneway hanged himself with a shoelace attached to a grille at the cell window. The report said that in August 2006 a senior officer at the SSU had written to a Governor expressing staff concerns that prisoners had in the past used the window grilles as ligature points and asked the Prison Service to consider removing the windows with grilles.
The Prisoner Ombudsman said there was “no evidence that concerns related to giving evidence to the Billy Wright Inquiry contributed in any way to the death”.
Following her report, Pauline McCabe made a list of 19 recommendations to the Prison Service.
Deputy Director of Operations for the Prison Service, Max Murray, said that it has plans to build additional accommodation to provide alternative options for managing high-profile and potentially vulnerable prisoners. He added that the Prison Service “sees the reduction of supply of illicit drugs within prisons as a key priority”.