A “doting dad” hanged himself in his prison cell just moments before he was due to appear in court via a video link.
And an inquest heard that a post-mortem examination revealed Lee Rushton had traces of cocaine and cannabis in his system, as well as those of the rare legal high phenazepam.
The 24-year-old had been charged with harassment which he had denied. Although he had been released on bail, he then breached its terms and so on January 22 2015 Wigan magistrates sent him to Walton Prison to remain in custody pending a trial scheduled for March 20.
However, on January 28, shortly before he was due to make a video-linked appearance to court, he was found hanged in his cell.
Coroner Andre Rebello, at Liverpool Coroner’s Court told a jury that a few days before his death Mr Rushton had suffered facial injuries when he was assaulted by a fellow inmate whom he found in his cell. CCTV was reviewed, no further action was taken.
Mr Rushton, of Marsh Green was regularly monitored, with several prison officers suspecting he had taken an illicit substance, which he denied, the hearing was told.
He also requested to speak to his family, which was denied.
The day before his death, Mr Rushton collected his prescribed medication, methadone and diazepam, but was shouting and swearing at staff.
Later that evening, cellmate Stephen Odita recalled that Mr Rushton became agitated, claiming he had not been given his medication and he had voices in his head. Mr Odita called for help as he feared he may be attacked.
Mr Odita was moved to another cell and Mr Rushton calmed down. Officers who checked on him every half hour said they had no further concerns.
The following morning Mr Rushton was again agitated and persistently pressed his warning bell.
He saw a member of the Short Lifeline substance misuse team, Sharon Langton, who said she heard Mr Rushton arguing with himself. Concerned about him, she referred him to a mental health team.
He collected his medication at lunchtime, where the nurse reported he seemed normal.
At 1pm, Mr Rushton, who was in his cell, asked about when his video link for Wigan Magistrates’ Court would be, as his hearing was due that afternoon.
At 1.45pm, an officer went to collect him for his video link and saw Mr Rushton had hanged himself.
Despite attempts to resuscitate him, he was pronounced dead a few minutes later.
The court heard that on arrival to custody, an Assessment Care in Custody Teamwork file was opened, used to assess his mental state.
Early notes indicated concern about self harm and that he was low in mood and he was referred to the prison’s mental health team.
Following further assessment, there did not appear to be any concern that he had suicidal thoughts.
Mr Rushton’s dad, Andrew, said his death was a big shock, as he completely devoted to his young son.
He said: “Lee was a family man and was a doting dad to his son. He was his main carer and worried when he was not with him.
“This was his first time in prison and he was probably terrified.
“He had never expressed a wish to harm himself or end his life. He would never had left his son. It makes no sense to us.”
Pathologist Dr Richard Shepherd said: “The phenazepam was not prescribed to him. It is an unusual drug and is likely to have had an affect in Lee at the time of death.
“Cocaine and cannabis levels showed they were taken a few days prior to his death.
“The effects from using a combination of drugs depends on how much was taken and when and tolerance. They may have affected his mind, but I don’t believe they caused his death.”