Inquiry into Hindley prison cell death begins

Bolton Coroner's Court
Bolton Coroner's Court

An inmate at HMP Hindley was found dead in his cell just three days after being served with a restraining order by his former partner, an inquest heard.

Anthony Ronald Hill, 35, was discovered by a prison officer with the words ‘hard to cope’ written on his arm, Bolton Coroners’ Court was told.

HMP Hindley

HMP Hindley

The prisoner was also found with a high dosage of an anti-insomnia medication in his bloodstream, which he had not been prescribed, jurors heard.

Hill, who is understood to have been from the Stockbridge Village area of Liverpool, was serving a 27-month sentence for a domestic violence related offence, which had been imposed at the city’s crown court.

He was initially taken to Preston Prison but was transferred to Hindley on January 24 last year. His earliest release date was said to be January 15 this year, the court heard.

Opening Mr Hill’s inquest, Manchester West assistant coroner Timothy Brennand said : “An important feature, on which you will have heard evidence, is of a restraining order, in relation to the complainant to the offence on which he had been dealt with, on March 3.

“It would seem that the last visit by family members was on March 4, which leads us to the events of March 6.

“He was last seen alive at approximately 8.50am. He was seen alive by prison officer Paul Keaste during a period called ‘unlock’.

“He was in cell number D4/8 and he did not in fact move into ‘association’, or leave his single-occupancy cell,”

The inquest heard that at around 10.45am another prison officer, Barry Greenhalgh, went to Hill’s cell to conduct a welfare check.

But he encountered difficulties in getting into the cell and it took a few minutes for prison officers to gain access.

The inmate was found in a collapsed state, with evidence that he had hanged himself, in his cell, the court heard.

Paramedics were summoned to the cell at 10.56am and attempts were made to resuscitate Hill but he was pronounced dead at 11.30am.

Jurors heard that a number of notes were found next to the body and a partial message, saying only ‘hard to cope with’ was found scrawled on his left wrist and arm.

Coroner Mr Brennand said a toxicology report indicated that Hill had a “high therapeutic concentration” of zopiclone, an anti-insomnia medication, in his system, at the time of his death.

Hill had not been prescribed the medication and it appeared that he may have obtained the drug “covertly” inside the prison, according to Mr Brennand.

He also had a lower dose of an anti-depressant medication, which he had been prescribed for depression, the inquest heard.

The coroner said that the jury would have to consider Hill’s state of mind, in the hours and days leading up to his death, the risk of self-harm which he presented to the prison authorities and whether that risk was properly considered by those looking after him.

Several prison officers and inmates at Hindley, alongside a governor, James Winrow are scheduled to give evidence at the hearing, which is expected to last between five and seven days.

Jurors were told that they would be excused from sitting on Friday, which is the deceased’s birthday.

Questions will also be posed to representatives of Bridgewater Community Healthcare NHS Trust, which offers medical services at Hindley, and GEO Amey, which provides security services.

Hill’s mother Maureen and his uncle, Gerrard Hill, were also in attendance and represented by counsel.