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UDA killer who died in jail ‘should have been checked’

A loyalist killer who died of a heart attack in prison should have been checked every day for health problems, a report said today.

UDA paramilitary Harry Speers (49) was found motionless in his Maghaberry cell after the prison nurse thought medical observations should stop as his condition had improved, a report by Prison Ombudsman Pauline McCabe said.

A medical reviewer found that the standard of care fell below common and acceptable practice. But Ms McCabe acknowledged some good care by medical staff and praised the considerate response of wardens in the hours before his death.

The report said: “There is no evidence that baseline investigations, which the doctor requested to be carried out on at least a daily basis from February 12 2008, were undertaken.”

Thirty cigarettes-a-day Speers, from Newtownabbey, died on February 18 2008 after complaining of chest pains. He also had a stomach condition called ulcerative colitis.

He was imprisoned in 2004 for beating Trevor Lowry to death. Mr Lowry (49), a father of two from Glengormley, died on March 31 2001, two days after being lured into an alleyway at Harmin Drive in the village where he was attacked and brutally beaten. Speers, a former Ulster Democratic Party councillor, was sentenced to life imprisonment and told he must serve a minimum of 15 years.

Ron Craig (20), of Richmond Avenue, Glengormley, who was a schoolboy at the time of the attack, was also convicted for the murder.

On the day of his death Speers had an appointment at Belfast City Hospital with a gastroenterologist. When he returned to prison he complained of feeling unwell and suffering pains in his chest. After the nurse examined him he diagnosed him with a gastric intestinal complaint, which was common and good practice, according to clinical reviewer Dr Neil Lloyd-Jones.

The report said a nurse was aware of a request from the prison doctor for daily observations.

The healthcare manager told the Ombudsman: “Her understanding of the note was that the observations were to be carried out if Mr Speers was unwell and, as he had improved, she felt that the note no longer applied.”

In assessing the inmate's treatment in prison, Dr Lloyd-Jones concluded his treatment was mainly consistent with accepted medical practice.

He was offered advice about stopping smoking and treatment for a head injury.

Speers' healthcare was not the responsibility of the prison but was the charge of the South Eastern Health Trust. A spokeswoman for the trust said it would be implementing recommendations made by the Ombudsman in her report.

Belfast Telegraph