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Sarah Reed inquest: cell death inmate was on hospital move list

Inquest told woman with mental health problems was ‘loved by her whole family’

10 July, 2017 — By Emily Finch

Sarah Reed, who died in her Holloway Prison cell last year

A WOMAN with severe mental health issues who was the last to die in custody at Holloway Prison was top of a list of inmates waiting to be transferred to a hospital mental health unit, an inquest has heard.

Sarah Reed, 32, was in C1, the prison’s mental health unit, when she was found dead in her cell on January 11 last year.

Ms Reed, described by her family as “much treasured”, was sent to Holloway in October 2015 after being charged with the serious assault of a psychiatric nurse. She was remanded while the court obtained a “fitness to plead” report on her mental state.

At the opening of the inquest into Ms Reed’s death on Tuesday, Peter Thornton, assistant coroner for the City of London, said the 32-year-old was suffering from a series of illnesses, including schizophrenia, bulimia, alcohol and drug dependence, and emotionally unstable personality disorder.

She started to suffer from mental health issues following the death of her nine-month-old daughter from muscular atrophy in 2003. He told the jury that two psychiatric evaluation reports – one finalised on the day of her death and the other afterwards – found she was unfit to be tried.

Ms Reed was found dead in her cell with strips of bed sheets tied around her neck as a ligature. She had been subject to hourly observations. Four prison officers, including a senior officer, had to be present to enter her cell, the inquest heard.

She had previously been in segregation and monitored with two observations an hour but was then moved to the C1 unit with observations reduced to one an hour.

Prison officer Ansar Din told the inquest he was one of the last people to see Ms Reed alive when he checked on her through a spy hole. He saw her “standing up” and “looking right into me” just before 7am on the day of her death. She was found unresponsive an hour later and pronounced dead at the scene.

Mr Din, who has worked as a prison officer for 12 years and knew Ms Reed from her previous stays in prison, said at the time of her death: “I think everyone was aware she was saying a lot of religious stuff.”

He added: “I believe she was the first one to be prioritised for hospital. I didn’t know the timescale. She could have been in C1 for weeks.”

The inquest heard that by November, Ms Reed’s anti-psychotic medication had been stopped.

The prison was closed in July last year and inmates moved to HMP Downview and HMP Bronzefield, both in Surrey.

Ms Reeds’ mother Marylin Goldring paid tribute to her daughter outside court

In a statement read out by the coroner at the opening of the inquest, Ms Reed’s mother, Marylin Goldring, paid tribute to her daughter.

“Sarah was adored and loved by the whole of her family,” she said. “She was my first daughter and was very much treasured.

“Her death has been devastating for us. Before she was remanded she had started to turn her life around. Sarah was in a good relationship. I still don’t understand how she died. One thing I do understand, she died unexpectedly.”

The inquest is scrutinising the care Ms Reed received at the Camden Road prison and whether there were any failings.

The jury is looking at the state of her mental health, whether her treatment was appropriate, whether she should have been in prison or in a mental health unit – and whether her death could have been avoided.

The inquest will hear evidence from at least 40 witnesses, including senior prison staff, police at the scene and former inmates at HMP Holloway. The hearing is expected to last another two weeks.

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