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No faults in care of inmate who took own life, inquest jury finds

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The care provided to a prisoner who took his own life in Magilligan was not deficient, an inquest has concluded. (stock photo)

The care provided to a prisoner who took his own life in Magilligan was not deficient, an inquest has concluded. (stock photo)

The care provided to a prisoner who took his own life in Magilligan was not deficient, an inquest has concluded. (stock photo)

The care provided to a prisoner who took his own life in Magilligan was not deficient, an inquest has concluded.

Geoffrey Ellison (58), a former lorry driver from Lancashire, was found dead in his cell on the morning of March 28, 2015, nine weeks before he was due for release.

In 2016 a review from the Prisoner Ombudsman found that Mr Ellison's death was predictable, but could not say for certain it was preventable.

A week-long inquest in Newtownards concluded yesterday, asking if his care from the Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS) or the South Eastern Health Trust had contributed significantly to his death.

Coroner Suzanne Anderson summarised a week of evidence for a jury, a requirement when someone dies in the care of the state.

Mr Ellison, a divorced father-of-one, was sentenced to eight months in prison after he was arrested in Belfast with a kilo of cocaine in his van.

He had a long history of depression and self-harm, having attempted suicide just two months before starting his sentence in September 2014.

Medical staff noted his mental health history at the start of his sentence but did not think he needed further support.

Having adjusted well to prison life, Mr Ellison was looking forward to moving back to England to marry his partner of five years, Trudi.

Two days before his death he received a 'Dear John' letter from his partner to end their relationship.

Prison staff were warned about the letter and told to keep an eye on him.

His partner had told him that she did not feel it was safe to stay in the relationship with him as she had been receiving telephone threats connected to his drug offence.

Mr Ellison told fellow prisoners he suspected his partner of seeing an ex-boyfriend from Dublin and they had concocted the threats to end the relationship.

He was also worried about where he would live, but had arranged to stay with his half-brother in Liverpool.

The night before he died he left a voicemail to his partner threatening suicide, but it was not heard until the next day.

Several prison staff, healthcare workers and fellow inmates all gave evidence to say they were shocked by his death, and did not think his behaviour showed he was in danger.

The jury found he did intend to take his own life and there were no defects in his care from the NIPS or the South Eastern Health Trust.

Other factors were his fear of returning to Liverpool after his sentence and the letter from his partner. In addition, health concerns - he had a heart condition and feared he had cancer after finding blood in his urine - as well as his mental health history were cited.

The coroner said Mr Ellison's family would be informed and she passed on the condolences of the court.

Belfast Telegraph