Jail officer found man dead inside prison cell

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A PRISONER who was found hanged while on remand at Leicester Prison for stabbing a friend had told a number of people he intended to kill himself, an inquest heard.

Luke Thomas, of Harborough, then aged 22, died on June 27 last year, a few days after he had been rushed to Leicester Royal Infirmary after being found by prison officers hanging from the window bars of his cell.

He had been sent to Leicester Prison to await court hearings for stabbing a friend at a party in Harborough.

His two-day jury inquest was held on Monday and Tuesday at Leicester Town Hall.

Detective Jeremy Pollard said Luke had been in and out of trouble with the police since the age of about 16.

He had served time in a young offenders’ institute and in 2010 had served an eight- month prison sentence.

However, Det Con Pollard said Luke appeared to have been taking steps to turn his life around – including a stint of work experience.

Det Con Pollard said some of Luke’s crimes coincided with the anniversary of his mum Deborah Thomas’ death. She committed suicide in 2008.

On Monday, the inquest heard a statement from Luke’s girlfriend Debbie Micklewright, who said Luke had often talked about ‘wanting to be with his mother’. He also confessed to having suicidal thoughts although he said he did not have the courage to act on them.

In a telephone call to her from prison, he expressed fears that he would be spending a long time in prison.

A friend and employer of Luke’s – youth worker Bianca Todd – told the court she had been concerned for Luke’s welfare ever since his mother’s death as he had never properly dealt with it – choosing instead to use drink and drugs to 
block out his feelings, she told the jury. She added: “He told 
me he wanted to leave Harborough.

“He said he was in difficulties because of the circle of friends he found himself in.”

Miss Todd said she had received a letter from Luke, sent days before his death, in which he apologised to people for letting them down and reiterated his feelings about wanting to be with his mother.

The inquest heard that a form had been filled in while Luke was at Leicester Magistrates’ Court which expressed concern that he was at risk of self-harming.

But this form was not seen by anyone at Leicester Prison, although Luke was put on a suicide action plan by senior prison officer Jackie Abbott when she listened to a phone conversation, which is standard practice, between Luke and his girlfriend and became concerned for his welfare.

A prison officer had been on the way to Luke’s cell to talk about the action plan when he was found hanged.

The jury reached a verdict of death by misadventure. They had earlier been instructed by coroner Martin Gotheridge that they could only reach a verdict of suicide if they were convinced beyond all reasonable doubt that Luke had intended to take his own life.