08 September 1997

Southwark Coroners Court, Tennis Street, London SE1

HM Coroner Selena Lynch

Wednesday 10th September 09.30hrs. It is expected to last two days.

Matthew Holmes was 22 years old. He was only nine days into a 10 month sentence for burglary when he was found dead in the early hours of March 26 1997 in the Health Care Centre of Belmarsh prison. The day he was sentenced he tried to hang himself with a belt. Five days later he tried again. Another two days passed before his next attempt. Then he started banging his head on the cell walls. Two days later while in a cell on his own and while on a 15 minute suicide watch he hung himself from the cell window by his belt.

Matthew's family cannot understand how his death was allowed to happen and are deeply concerned at the level of care he received in HMP Belmarsh. They cannot understand that given his previous attempts at hanging he was left in a cell with a belt. Nor were the family informed about his previous suicide attempts despite guidelines that this should be the case.

The regimes and conditions in the Health Care Centre has been criticised by the previous Southwark Coroner, the Chief Inspector Of Prisons and a psychiatrist who used to work there. Another prisoner Ricky Overy was found hanging in the Health Care Centre on 6 July 1997.

INQUEST have arranged for barrister Owen Davis to represent the family for free at the inquest. Despite the fact that unlimited public funds are available for the prison service to have a team of lawyers to represent them and union funds enable prison officers to be represented there is disgracefully no legal aid for families.

41 prisoners have taken their own lives in prison so far this year. The family and INQUEST will be attending throughout and will be speaking at the conclusion to the inquest.