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Prison failings enabled killer to take own life

John Wright intended to take his own life, stressing it was a case of “when, not if”.

KILLER John Derek Wright was able to escape justice by taking his own life because of prison system failings, an inquest jury has ruled.

Wright’s suicide robbed the family of Thatcham barmaid Janine Bowater of justice, a potential explanation for his actions and the knowledge that he would be suffering in prison for many years to come.

The inquest at Oxfordshire Coroner’s Court had heard the 32-year-old had warned authorities he intended to take his own life at the first opportunity.

And yet, just eight hours after arriving, straight from the dock at Reading Magistrates’ Court, John Derek Wright was found dead in his cell at HMP Bullingdon in Oxfordshire.

An inquest into the death of mother-of-two Janine has since heard she was knocked unconscious, raped and strangled by Wright, her partner’s best friend.

Wright had posed as a trusted chaperone when he offered to walk the 25-year-old safely home from her late shift as a barmaid at the King’s Head pub in Thatcham town centre.

Following his arrest, Wright, of The Hollands, Thatcham, told officers he intended to take his own life, stressing it was a case of “when, not if”.

Wright was placed on constant watch on his arrival at prison, but when he was moved to a medical unit after passing blood, the fateful decision was taken to downgrade that to half-hourly checks.

Coroner Darren Salter said the details of Wright stating he wanted to kill himself was “precisely the [sort of] information that should not be allowed to fall through the gap”.

On Thursday, February 28, at the conclusion of the three-day hearing, inquest jurors returned a narrative verdict.

It stated: “John Wright was found at 11.45pm on 14 December 14, 2017, in cell 114, unresponsive.”

It was determined that he had hanged himself and the verdict statement added: “Life was pronounced extinct at 12.58am on December 15 by the South Central Ambulance Service.

“Cause of death [was] declared by the pathologist to be compression of the neck consistent with suspension.

“Based on the evidence presented we, the jury, believe that it was Mr Wright’s intention to end his life that evening... we, the jury, believe that the opportunity for Mr Wright to end his life was afforded by the decision to downgrade the level of observation from constant watch pre-arrival at HMP Bullingdon to twice hourly in the healthcare wing for the first night.

“The decision to downgrade the level of observation, taken by the duty governor, the senior prison officer and the healthcare representative, was taken based on how Mr Wright presented during screening, without due consideration to the information provided in the PER [Prisoner Escort Record] and accompanying SASH [Suicide and Self Harm] form.

“This decision was further compounded by inconsistencies and inadequacies in the systems and processes for sharing important and pertinent information at the appropriate time and to relevant parties.

“Being in possession of all the information available would have assisted the staff in their decision-making around the level of observation required.”

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