Christopher Wardally

Christopher WardallyA vulnerable ‘ping-pong’ inmate commits suicide in his 7th prison

Compiled from various sources
published: 4WardEver UK – December 2011

News updates listed at the foot of this item

Christopher Wardally, 25, was pronounced dead after he was discovered by staff at Wandsworth Prison in south-west London on 12th June 2009. Staff tried to resuscitate him, but he died at the scene. The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman soon launched an investigation into the death. An inquest has heard that Christopher was transferred between at least seven different prisons in the four years before he died.

An official report claimed that Christopher was incorrectly discharged from a vulnerable person’s wing and not told he would be moved back to Wandsworth, which caused him anxiety.

He had a history of mental issues, including schizophrenia and hearing voices, and had been in and out of prison since a teenager.

One prison incident left him with compartment syndrome – where muscle swells, blocking veins in the arteries – and a limp. He also suffered with wryneck – a stiff neck associated with muscle spasm. He started hearing voices in 2003, and later had a mental breakdown.

In recording a narrative verdict at Westminster Coroner’s Court on Wednesday, 21st September 2011, jurors said Wardally was failed by the prison service in the days and months before he died.

In its majority ruling it said Wardally “killed himself while the balance of his mind was disturbed”, the jury also outlined a series of care failings, which it said were “contributory circumstances” to his death.

After the ruling, Wardally’s mother, Kathleen, said she was considering suing for compensation. She said: “He could have been helped when he was asking for help. If they had sent someone earlier maybe he would still be alive today.”

Prison charities and the prison officers’ union have attacked an “astonishing” and “shocking” decision not to re-investigate two of the country’s leading prison governors after emails implicated them in the transfer of a vulnerable prisoner – who later killed himself – in order to avoid inspections.

The messages showed the pair agreeing to hold Mr Wardally at Pentonville – despite his attempted suicide there a month earlier – until the day after an inspection at Wandsworth had finished.

A draft report into his death by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) revealed massive failings in his care and, through the emails, tied his case to the “prisoner chess” transfer scandal unearthed in October 2009 by Dame Anne Owers, then the chief inspector of prisons.

Dame Anne Owers, had said they aimed to “subvert” the work of her staff. She said the actions of those responsible for the swaps were “deplorable”, and accused them of a “dereliction of their duty of care” to the inmates.

On learning of the move, with little or no notice, one Wandsworth inmate took an overdose of prescription drugs and needed hospital treatment, but was taken to Pentonville anyway after he was cleared by doctors.

Another cut himself and tied a ligature around his neck, and was dragged from his cell to the prison reception where he arrived “bloody, handcuffed and dressed only in underwear”.

He still had blood on his face when he arrived at Pentonville.

Christopher Wardally left a warning to others in the last message before his death, filmed in 2009. In it he spoke of his desire to change his life and offered advice to youths.

He said he would “recover” after his prison experience and had goals for 2009. I want to achieve, I still have targets – get a nine to five, gain some qualifications. Become a qualified mechanic, that was my dream.”

See full report + video here >


Follow-up News:

Family plan to sue over Streatham prisoner’s death in jail
30 September 2011

Emails reveal prison swaps that hid inmates from inspectors
11 May 2011

Report finds flaws in Christopher Wardally case
13 January 2011

Prison bosses face sack for ‘shuffling difficult inmates’ to avoid inspectors
20 October 2009

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