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Step-dad's death led to jail suicide; INMATE 'INCONSOLABLE'.

Byline: Ian Johnson Reporter @IANJOHNSONCHRON

AN armed raider who threatened a heavily pregnant woman with a machete took his own life in prison.

Robert Chapman was found dead in the HMP Northumberland cell where he was serving a 78-month sentence for his role as the ringleader in a violent "drug taxing".

However, "inconsolable" Chapman took his life on the same day he learned his step-father had died.

"Mr Chapman said he loved his stepfather as if he'd been a parent," states the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman report.

The watchdog has criticised both HMP Northumberland and HMP Durham - where Chapman had served time - for their performance prior to his 2016 death.

Both prisons were contacted over the report. HMP Northumberland insists it has "made improvements" since.

Chapman - who had a history of drug misuse and mental health issues - had historically made several suicide bids.

One occurred 13 minutes after he was jailed at Teesside Crown Court. Another came after he swallowed a bag of "spice" and it accidentally burst inside him.

However, an inmate told the watchdog that Chapman admitted he "intended to kill himself due to stepfather's death".

Hours after the admission, staff found Chapman slumped with a cut lip, seemingly under the influence of drugs.

Staff were told to monitor him overnight but less than 15 minutes after leaving his cell, he had taken his life.

He was pronounced dead at just after 9pm on July 1, 2016. Earlier that day, he'd received the bombshell from his own father that his step-dad has passed.

"Mr Chapman was inconsolable and said he did not know what to do he would do without his step-father," states the report, which adds he'd asked for a picture of him.

The 26-year-old was later "in a very distressed state and crying" as he told staff the news.

The prisoner then spent an hour with the chaplain where they "said prayers, lit a candle and played music".

However, the chaplain had "no concerns" Chapman was suicidal. Had he, an Assessment, Care in Custody and Teamwork (ACCT) would have been opened. The ACCT is an action plan for prisoners suspected of being sucidal. One had been opened when he arrived at HMP Northumberland in April, but was closed after four days due to "staff perceptions of his behaviour and demeanour".

However, the Ombudsman states: "While he received support from discipline staff and a chaplain, no one considered Mr Chapman's risk of self-harm or suicide and did not open an ACCT.

"Later that evening, Mr Chapman was found to be under the influence of an illicit substance and had a cut lip. Again, no one considered Mr Chapman's risk of self-harm and no ACCT was opened.

"We are very concerned that staff at Northumberland did not open an ACCT to support Mr Chapman on 1 July.

"Mr Chapman had a number of factors known to increase the risk of suicide and self-harm which are identified in our thematic reports and in Prison and Probation Service instructions: he had received news of a death of a close relative, had a history of self-harm and attempted suicide, had mental health issues, and a history of drug abuse."

Those included a suicide bid in HMP Durham where he had told staff he was "fed up with his life".

"He said he had tried to hang himself but his cellmate stopped him," reads the report.

A post-mortem revealed Chapman - of Thornaby, near Stockton - used illicitly obtained prescription drugs at the time of his death.

Both prisons were served with recommendations following the death. The watchdog was concerned staff at Durham had not identified Chapman of being at risk of suicide when he arrived.

At HMP Northumberland, suicide and self-harm prevention procedures were branded "poor", while concerns over drugs at both prisons were raised.

An HMP Northumberland spokesperson said: "Death in custody is a tragedy, affecting families, staff and other prisoners. Since Mr Chapman's death in 2016, we have reviewed and made many improvements to the delivery of healthcare services."


Robert Chapman
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Author:Ian Johnson Reporter @IANJOHNSONCHRON
Publication:Sunday Sun (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 27, 2019
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