Prison officer had history of problems with governor, inquest hears

THE WIFE of a prison officer found drowned in a reservoir told an inquest her husband had a number of issues with the prison governor in the months before his death.

John Healy (50), of Fleckney, was found face down in the reservoir near the village of Newton Harcourt on June 25, 2008.

Mr Healey, a senior prison officer at HMP Gartree, had been signed off work since November 2007, an inquest at Leicester Town Hall heard this week.

His body was found by a teacher leading a school party on a visit to the lake, it was revealed today (Thursday, August 26).

Mr Healy had been due to return to work just a few days later.

He had cut himself with a Stanley knife and written "f*** dep gov cow" in his own blood on the wall of a house he was renovating on the morning of his death, the inquest heard.

The grisly message was discovered later that day.

Sharon Williams, the former deputy governor of the prison, was asked yesterday (Wednesday) by coroner Donald Coutts-Wood if she thought the message referred to her.

She replied "no" and said she had never experienced any issues with Mr Healy, adding that she had been promoted to governor by the time of Mr Healy's death.

But speaking at the inquest today (Thursday, August 26), Mr Healy's wife Linda said her husband had experienced problems with Miss Williams.

A qualified joiner, Mr Healy had worked on Miss Williams' house a few years ago but she had not paid him for the work after complaining of its quality, said Mrs Healy.

She also said father-of-three Mr Healy had been unhappy in the days before his death because Miss Williams had not agreed to the conditions of his return to work.

Giving evidence on Wednesday, Miss Williams had told the inquest she had no involvement in that process.

But Mrs Healy told the inquest today: "He told me she (Miss Williams] hadn't agreed to the hours in his return to work plan. He wasn't very happy about it, not very impressed."

Miss Williams left Gartree Prison on July 7, 2008, the inquest was told.

The inquest heard how Mr Healy had been signed off work after complaining of anxiety and flashbacks following the deaths of three inmates, which he had dealt with.

Mr Healy had been prescribed anti-depressants and was undergoing therapy in the months while he was off work.

Elaine Bevins, the occupational health advisor at Gartree Prison, told the inquest she had met with Mr Healy and his line manager to discuss his return to work on June 10.

She said Mr Healy still had "issues" over the deaths of the three prisoners as well as a disturbing incident in 2005 involving another inmate, Gavin Walker.

She added: "He still had issues over the Gavin Walker incident because he didn't feel he was supported by management."

Coroner Mr Coutts-Wood asked: "Presumably his anger was aimed at the prison service?"

"Yes," replied Mrs Bevin.

The inquest heard Mr Healy was also unhappy on June 10 over a summons he had received to give evidence at an inquest into one of the prisoner's deaths.

However Mrs Healy said her husband had generally seemed 'positive' over the prospect of returning to work.

He had never displayed any suicidal tendencies, she told the inquest.

The inquest heard how police had lost Mr Healy's mobile phone, which was recovered from the house he was renovating and could have contained records of text messages or phone calls received on the day of his death.

Sgt Andy Cooper, of Leicestershire police, explained during the inquest that the phone had been placed in a store room by police but could not be found.

The call records could not be obtained from the phone company because it was on a pay-as-you-go contract and the details were only kept for six months, he explained.

Delivering a narrative verdict, Mr Coutts-Wood said: "I'm satisfied that something happened on June 25 that triggered a change in Mr Healy and caused him to change his mind. We don't know what that was. That is not assisted by the absence of the the telephone and the information that may have been on it."

Mr Coutts-Wood's narrative verdict was as follows: "John Michael Francis Healy was employed as a prison officer at H M Prison Gartree, Leicestershire, and had been off work due to illness since November 2007. He was due to retrun to work on June 30, 2008.

"On June 25 2008, whilst at a property he was renovating in Wigston, he inflicted a number of cuts to his neck, his left arm and left leg.

"He then drove to Newton Croft Reservoir, Newton Harcourt, Leicestershire, where he entered the water. At 1.45pm his body was discovered in the water. The cause of death was drowning."

Speaking after the inquest, friends, co-workers and family of Mr Healy paid tribute to a 'fantastic and dedicated' husband and colleague.

A statement issued by his wife Linda Healy said: "I am releieved to have received a verdict from the coroner after over two years since John's death.

"I am grateful to the coroner for the time he has taken to explore the issues which coloured the last few months of John's life.

"We will continue to miss John, who was a fantastic and dedicated husband and father to myself and our three daughters."