Prisoner, 42, died of heart condition

Sally A Palmer
Sally A Palmer
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A NOTORIOUS Blackpool drug dealer died suddenly from a serious heart condition prison medics weren’t even aware she had, an inquest has heard.

Heroin addict Sally Palmer had been at Styal Prison for a year when staff found her lifeless in her cell.

The 42-year-old, from Gorton Street, Blackpool, was serving a 12-year sentence for intent to supply heroin handed down after an infamous resort drugs gang was busted in 1999.

But Palmer – originally jailed alongside fellow gang ringleaders her dad, John Smith, and boyfriend, Mark Shaw – had spent two years of that sentence on the run from Askham Grange open prison before she arrived at Styal, Cheshire, in March 2009.

And at an inquest into her death at Macclesfield Coroner’s Court, a jury was told staff there had failed to get hold of her medical records at any point during her time at the prison.

Palmer died suddenly in March 2010 due to a cardiac arrhythmia and Long QT Syndrome, an irregular heart rate which can lead to heart attack or death.

The inquest heard if staff had been given access to her medical records they would have been alerted to the severity of her condition and would have been able to prescribe medication.

Returning a narrative verdict after the six-day inquest, the jury ruled the failure of medical staff to communicate properly with each other and transfer clinical notes between prisons and the hospital were factors that contributed to her death. But they said it was Mrs Palmer’s own drug addiction and in particular her ‘non-compliance’ with doctors’ advice that had been the most important factors.

Following the inquest, coroner Nicholas Rheinberg said he would write to the head of healthcare at HMP Styal making recommendations.

During her initial health screen at the prison – described as ‘overly-brief’ – Palmer was prescribed the heroin substitute methadone, which may have aggravated her heart condition.

She first collapsed on March 18 and was given an ECG by the prison, which wasn’t made available to the hospital when she was admitted. Two days later she was admitted to hospital again and although she was discharged staff at the prison remained concerned on her return and urged her to return.

The following day, March 21, she was found “cold and lifeless” in her cell.

A spokesman for Wythenshawe Hospital said after the inquest: “Our staff here did everything we could to help Sally.

“Then we offered her follow-up care which she refused.”

A Prison Service spokesman said: “The National Offender Management Service will consider the inquest findings to see what lessons can be learned in addition to those already learned as a result of the investigation conducted by the Prisons Ombudsman.”

Palmer is the third Fylde coast woman to die at Styal in recent years. Lisa Marley, 32, from South Shore and Helen Cole, 48, from Thornton were both found hanged in their cells in January 2008 and May 2007 respectively.