Prisoner was under pressure to repay debt with fellow inmate, inquest hears

Carrow House.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Carrow House.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

A prisoner found hanged in his cell had been under pressure to repay a debt with another inmate, an inquest has heard.

Matthew Gray, 31, was found at HMP Norwich on March 20 last year and died in hospital two days later.

The court has previously heard that on March 8 Mr Gray had jumped onto safety netting at the prison and was moved into a segregation unit. Norfolk area coroner Yvonne Blake said that he was due to return to C wing on March 16 but refused and was allowed three more days in segregation, before being restrained in handcuffs and returned to the wing.

On the second day of the inquest on Tuesday (September 18), Karl Dodgson, prison officer at HMP Norwich, told Ms Blake that he had spoken to Mr Gray on March 10 in relation to the alleged bullying.

'He was under pressure from a prisoner to throw faeces over a member of staff, to repay a debt he couldn't afford,' Mr Dodgson said.

The prison officer said that Mr Gray had urged him to be 'cautious' when investigating because he 'didn't want to be labelled as a grass'.

Mr Dodgson said that he spoke to the alleged bully, who denied all knowledge.

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Earlier, Sally Coe, a nurse at the prison, told Mrs Ruth Brander, counsel for Mr Gray's family, that while the deceased man was in the segregation unit she had dispensed his medication.

The court heard that on March 13 Ms Coe noted Mr Gray was 'polite and co-operative' and that 'no issue had been raised'. Similar entries were made everyday until March 20th, Ms Coe said.

She said that he never talked about 'being vulnerable or being bullied'.

'If he wanted to speak to me he could have done but he didn't,' she said.

She told Mrs Brander that staying in the segregation unit was not normally in a prisoner's best interests because of the isolation. 'They have limited choices. We're trying to get the people to integrate with other people,' she said.

Mrs Brander asked what happens in the case where a prisoner is fearful for his safety.

Ms Coe replied that 'quite a lot of prisoners are fearful for their safety' and normally they are moved to another place or another prison.

She said that, in her experience, that is what would have happened Mr Gray if he had not died.

The hearing continues.