12 January 2024

Before HM Area Coroner Victoria Davies 
Cheshire Coroner’s Court, St James Business Centre, Warrington
Scheduled 15 – 19 January

Annelise Sanderson was only 18 when she died by ligature at HMP Styal in December 2020. She is the youngest person to have died in a women’s prison in 20 years. An inquest will now examine the circumstances.

Annelise’s death is one of 11 self-inflicted deaths at the prison since 2007, more than any other women’s prison in England. 

Annelise grew up in Runcorn, Chesire. A tomboy from an early age, Annalise was interested in biking and playing football. A passionate, loving and forgiving person, her family said she cherished the relationships of those to whom she was closest. 

Annelise had a complex history of mental ill health, self-harm and suicide attempts. She had spent time in local authority care and had experienced significant trauma. 

In June 2020, shortly after turning 18, Annelise was arrested after she had been witnessed trying to drink or pour petrol on herself at a petrol station and had assaulted emergency workers who tried to intervene. 

She was very unwell and was brought to A&E before being transferred to court.  She was subsequently sentenced to 52 weeks in prison and was sent to HMP Styal. 

Upon arrival at the prison, her behaviour was described as volatile, and she was observed acting bizarrely and threatening staff. After three days, a safety plan for prisoners at risk of suicide or self-harm (known as an ACCT) was put in place. 

During one of her interactions with staff she was observed to have tied a ligature. Her ACCT was closed eight days later. 

On 22 December 2020, a prison officer found Annelise ligatured in her cell. Staff commenced CPR and an ambulance was called. She was pronounced dead shortly after. 

The inquest into her death will seek to explore the following issues:

  • An overview of Annelise’s mental health prior to entering the prison, including the handover from social services, during inductions to the prison and the assessment of her risk in June 2020.
  •  Mental health care whilst in prison, including the ACCT process, assessment and management of her risk to self, and information sharing around risk between organisations charged with her care.
  • Annelise’s state of mind in the days leading up to the final incident.
  •  Events of 21 and 22 December 2020 with a focus on her state of mind. 

Deborah Coles, Director at INQUEST, said: “Deaths in HMP Styal in the early 2000’s led to Baroness Corston’s landmark review. This recommended the dismantling of women’s prisons and replacing them with community alternatives.

Here we are at the start of another inquest almost 16 years later asking the same fundamental question. Why was Annelise sent to prison in the first place?

This inquest must answer why such a vulnerable teenager died when she was supposed to be in the care of the state. Deaths in Styal prison are at a record high and two self-inflicted deaths in December raise serious questions about women’s health and safety.”

Michela Carini and Amy Ooi, at Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, said: “Annelise had turned 18 just two months before being sent to HMP Styal. She was extremely vulnerable and had a history of trauma and mental ill health.

The death of someone like Annelise who was so obviously in need of support is shocking. Annelise’s family now look to the Coroner for a full and thorough investigation into what action was taken by agencies charged with her care, and whether today measures are in place to keep vulnerable young people like Annelise entering the prison estate safe.”



For further information, please contact Leila Hagmann on [email protected].

The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Amy Ooi and Michela Carini of Bhatt Murphy Solicitors and Leonie Hirst Junior of Doughty Street Chambers. They are supported by INQUEST Senior Caseworker Selen Cavcav.

Other interested persons represented are HMP Styal; Halton Borough Council whose social services team had responsibility for Annelise as a care leaver; Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust, who are responsible for mental health provision within HMP Styal; and Spectrum Community Healthcare, the organisation providing additional support services within HMP Styal.