‘Suicide watch’ prisoner left for three hours

Christopher Oldham
Christopher Oldham
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An inmate from Blackpool on “suicide watch” was left hanging in his cell at Preston Prison for more than three hours before he was discovered, an inquest was told.

Christopher Oldham, 36, should have been checked every 30 minutes after warders were warned he was high risk.

But a Home Office pathologist told the hearing at Preston that CCTV footage showed him making a noose out at 9.22pm and hanging himself.

It was not until 12.30am that a guard noticed something was wrong and raised the alarm.

Dr Alison Armour said death would have been rapid, with loss of consciousness within three to 10 seconds and, after 30 seconds,

resuscitation attempts would probably have been futile.

Mr Oldham, a self-employed builder from Blackpool, was on remand accused of breaching an order not to contact his estranged wife.

He had been prescribed anti-depressants after his marriage broke down and he was not able to see his young daughter.

The inquest heard there had been at least four previous suicide attempts. When he was admitted to HMP Preston he told a nurse he had been “hearing voices and crying a lot.” The nurse referred him for assessment by the jail’s mental health team.

“He stated that he had tried to harm himself in the past with a drug overdose,” said prison staff nurse Robert Tomlinson. “He had been having mental health treatment in the community and he took medication.” As a result, Mr Oldham was not thought to be suitable for cell-sharing.

Dr Armour, one of the country’s top pathologists, carried out a post mortem and ruled there was no evidence of any assault.

A ligature mark around Mr Oldham’s neck had been consistent with shoelaces.

She said death had been due to hanging. The inquest is expected to take almost three weeks.