A prison has overhauled its suicide prevention measures after a mum grieving the murder of her girlfriend was able to kill herself in her cell.
Mum-of-one Amy Friar, who was found hanged in her prison cell days after her girlfriend was murdered, committed suicide, an inquest jury concluded at Surrey Coroner’s Court last Friday.
Friar's murdered girlfriend Louisa Brannan
Friar, 24, who had an eight-year-old daughter when she was found hanged in Downview prison on March 30, 2011, after her girlfriend Louisa Brannan, was beaten and stabbed to death by murderer Reece Ludlow on March 14.
Friar was planning to move in with Miss Brannan, who had recently been released from prison, and found out about her death after she called Miss Brannan’s father the evening after her death.
Following the murder Downview prison started suicide and self harm management which involved prison officers carrying out extra checks on her.
But her observations were reduced and a senior prison officer raised concerns about the absence of daytime observations the day before Friar died.
It was decided the issue would be addressed the following afternoon. As a consequence there were no observations in place when Friar hanged herself over lunch.
Friar's mother Karen Gammon said: "Although I am disappointed with the brevity of the verdict, I have been reassured by the number of changes the prison made following Amy's death, including a complete overhaul of their self-harming and suicide prevention measures.
"For other bereaved families who are in this same sad situation, I would encourage them to keep pushing for changes, to ensure prisons do learn and continue to lower the rate of deaths in custody. If the changes made following Amy's death save one life, then this process will be worth it."
She said the inquest had been a very difficult experience made harder by a lack of financial assistance meaning she could not hear all the evidence.
Deborah Coles the co-director of Inquest, a charity which represented Friar’s family, called for a complete overhaul in the way women are dealt with by the criminal justice system.
Research has shown women are five times more likely to self-harm in prison than men.
Friar’s father committed suicide when she was young and she had been a victim of rape and domestic violence, the court heard. Friar also had a history of mental health problems, depression, drug dependency and self harm.
She had served several short prison sentences for drug offences and was jailed in 2010 for robbing a shop assistant with a machete-like blade in Murston, Kent.