Before Assistant Coroner for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Sean Horstead
Huntingdon Coroner’s Court
4 December 2017 – 19 December 2017

Terry Ojuederie, 42, from Watford, died in the early hours of 9 December 2015 whilst detained at HMP Peterborough (run by Sodexo Justice Services) after a sustained violent assault by his cellmate Jordan Palmer. He was pronounced dead in his cell and died shortly before he was due to be released. The Senior Investigating Officer at Cambridgeshire Police, DCI Gallop, described the attack as “one of the most vicious” he had seen.  On 19 October 2016, a jury at Peterborough Crown Court convicted Mr Palmer of manslaughter by diminished responsibility on the grounds of involuntarily ingesting the psychoactive substance “Spice” and he was subsequently sentenced to 14 years imprisonment.

The Jury concluded that a catalogue of failures contributed to Mr Ojuederie’s death including that:

  • In light of a security intelligence report and supporting evidence relating to Jordan Palmer that Mr Palmer had been in possession of a large blade, the jury concluded it was “surprising and unacceptable” that this was not more thoroughly investigated, including a targeted cell search;
  • Mr Palmer’s cell sharing risk assessment should have been reviewed following thorough investigations;

  • It was “widely known that Spice was rife within the prison”;

  • Although the Prison recognised the risk that Spice might cause an individual to react in an extremely violent manner, staff and management at HMP Peterborough made “insufficient efforts to reduce its availability” in prison;
  • “No formal training” was given to staff in recognising and dealing with “the risk of an extremely violent reaction from Spice”;

  • There was “confusion” as to what staff should do if they suspected somebody was under the influence of Spice, with “no clear guidelines” given to them;

The inquest jury also concluded that it was possible that a request was made for Palmer to move cells on 8 December, and if so, that insufficient steps were taken to investigate that request (which should have been logged).

Disclosure
The inquest was also beset by disclosure failures on the part of HMP Peterborough, which were described by the Coroner as “nothing short of shambolic”. This included Senior Prison Custody Officer book for Mr Palmer’s houseblock and a wing observation book, which had been requested by the police in the homicide investigation, but emerged on the ninth day of the inquest.

Prevention of Future Deaths
At the conclusion of the inquest the Assistant Coroner for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Sean Horstead, announced that he would be sending a statutory ‘Preventing Future Deaths’ report to Sodexo Justice Services, the private company which operates HMP Peterborough on behalf of the

Ministry of Justice, and the Ministry of Justice, in relation to his significant concerns at the nature and extent that the risk of Spice presents in prisons. He is also considering further issues, based on the jury’s conclusions.

Jenny Tucholski, sister of Mr Ojuederie said: The last two years have been devastating for our family. The shock of hearing about Terry’s death two years ago, and the horror at discovering the manner in which his life was taken, are still very hard to accept and understand. We have now heard evidence during the inquest that there was a culture at HMP Peterborough where prisoners, including Jordan Palmer, were known to bully and show aggressive and threatening behaviour to get their way, and that these instances were not always dealt with properly by prison staff. We are also very concerned about the way evidence was not retained by the prison. We believe that evidence which came to light in the inquest was denied to the police investigation and the criminal trial.

Terry was a loving son, father, partner, brother and friend who was well liked. We now look to the Prison to address the litany of failures identified by the jury in order to prevent such a horrific incident from happening to anyone else.


Hayley Spencer-Tucker, partner of Mr Ojuederie said:
Terry was let down by HMP Peterborough. Given that important CCTV was not retained, we remain concerned that the role they played may never come out. We have not had time to grieve during this process and are grateful that the inquest has exposed to the public failings by the prison leading up to the death of our loved one.


Shamik Dutta of Bhatt Murphy Solicitors said:
“Terry Ojuederie was tragically killed very shortly before he was due to be released from prison. After hearing all the evidence over the last two weeks the jury has made numerous findings critical of HMP Peterborough. It is vital that HMP Peterborough, and the prison service as a whole, learns lessons from this tragic death to ensure all necessary steps are taken to prevent any recurrence in the future.”


Deborah Coles, director of INQUEST said: “This horrendous case is symptomatic of the perilous state of prisons, with high rates of violence, drug problems, homicides and self-inflicted deaths. Whilst government rhetoric on dealing with spice focuses on the supply, it overlooks intelligence sharing, staff training and the health and safety of prisoners.

This is the second inquest this month on a homicide in prison which identified failures to act on intelligence and risk assessments.”

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS

For further information contact Lucy McKay here.

The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Shamik Dutta and Manveer Bhullar of Bhatt Murphy Solicitors and Tom Stoate of Garden Court Chambers.

  • This is the second inquest in recent weeks on a homicide in prison, both of which raised the issue of intelligence in prisons. Sidonio Teixeira was killed in HMP Long Lartin in June 2016, with the inquest concluding on the 2nd of December that the prison failed to share and grade known intelligence, and that there were omissions in intelligence report assessments. More information available on request.

  • 2015 saw the highest rate of prisons in homicides on record, with 8 deaths in the year. Last year there were three further homicides, and in 2017 there have been two.