Croydon Coroner’s Court, Barclay Road, Croydon, CR9 3NE HM Deputy Coroner JC Sampson Tuesday 9 June at 10.30am

Julie Anderson was a 34-year-old mother of two children. Julie was seriously depressed and suffered from claustrophobia. On 2 August 1997 she was arrested for alleged affray and assault of two police officers after an argument with a friend. Police took her to Croydon police station where she arrived at about 6.45pm. While being detained in the cell she attempted to kill herself using her bra. Officers removed this and she was placed in handcuffs. She was seen by a police doctor who despite recording her as ‘mentally unstable’ and presumably being told of her suicide attempt said that she was fit to be detained and interviewed. She was left alone in her cell with no special instructions on her care and none of her clothing removed for her own safety.

At 22.15h she was discovered with a pair of black leggings round her neck. The post-mortem report found that she died from asphyxiation due to self-strangulation. Julie Anderson had been arrested on a previous occasion and taken to Croydon Police station. On that occasion she was treated very differently, having a policewoman assigned to be in the cell with her until her transfer to a psychiatric hospital.

This case raises serious issues about the treatment and care of vulnerable prisoners, the quality of care afforded by police doctors as well as the training of police officers in suicide awareness. The PCA have recently released a report ‘The role of the Custody Officer’ expressing concern about the lack of training for custody officers.

INQUEST is very concerned about why such a vulnerable woman was left alone in a cell with the means to kill herself when she had already tried to attempt suicide earlier that evening.

Following Julie’s death INQUEST arranged for Julie’s mother to see INQUEST Lawyers group solicitor Louise Christian. The family is being represented by barrister Valerie Easty who is working without the resources available to the Metropolitan Police whose representation is paid for out of public funds.

The Metropolitan Police have refused to disclose any witness statements despite having the power to do so and despite the recommendation of the Home Affairs Select Committee report on Police Complaints and Discipline published earlier this year.