Family's plea for answers as inquest finally opens for Northampton man who died in prison eight years ago

The 36-year-old was sadly found with a ligature twice in the week leading up to his death
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A family is hoping that it will finally get answers eight years after a Northampton man died in prison.

Robert Fenlon, from Northampton, was on remand in HMP Woodhill in Milton Keynes, when he died on March 5, 2016. He was found in his cell with a ligature around his neck, having been found with a ligature twice in the week leading up to his death.

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A 10-day inquest into the 36-year-old’s death opened on Monday (April 15)in Milton Keynes, after it was originally listed for October last year. The inquest will look at the circumstances of his death and the care he received in prison.

Robert Fenlon died in HMP Woodhill in 2016.Robert Fenlon died in HMP Woodhill in 2016.
Robert Fenlon died in HMP Woodhill in 2016.

Following Robert’s death there was a prolonged police investigation at the conclusion of which the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to bring charges against the prison service, two senior prison officers or a healthcare assistant. Robert’s family unsuccessfully challenged that decision in the High Court.

According to Inquest – a charity working with the family – in February 2016, Robert passed a note under his cell door saying he would self-harm. Subsequently, a safety plan for prisoners at risk of suicide or self-harm (known as an ACCT) was put in place.

The charity adds that on March 3, two prison officers found Robert ligatured in his cell. The next day, another officer again found Robert with a ligature in his cell, before he was found unresponsive on March 5 and pronounced dead shortly after.

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A spokesperson from the charity, said: “His family describe him as big hearted who would help anyone. His daughter remembers his love of books and history.

"Robert had a long history of substance use and mental ill health.

“The family hope the inquest will address their concerns about the care that Robert received prior to his death and whether his death could have been prevented both at the time and had recommendations following previous deaths been acted on sooner."

At the time of Robert’s death, Woodhill prison had the highest number of self-inflicted deaths of any prison in the country. Robert was the second of seven men to take their own lives in the prison in 2016, and one of 27 since 2013.

If you are struggling with your mental health, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 24 hours a day.