An inquest has been opened into the death of a 21-year-old man from Fishersgate who died while serving a sentence in a young offender institution (YOI).
Billy Spiller, 21, of Fishersgate Close, Fishersgate, was found hanging in his cell at Aylesbury Young Offender Institution on Saturday 5 November 2011.
The inquest, at Buckinghamshire Coroner’s Court, in Beaconsfield, was told that Spiller had learning difficulties. Autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) had been diagnosed.
And he had self-harmed as a child, first using a ligature when he was 16 years old.
His mother Dawn Spiller told coroner Richard Hulett that she was worried that he would not cope with being locked up.
And she was worried that those looking after her son would not be able to cope with him.
Spiller had been in custody since July 2008. He was sentenced to three and a half years in December 2009 although the inquest jury was not told the nature of his offending. He arrived at Aylesbury YOI in July 2010.
He was released on licence in October 2010 but recalled soon after and arrived back at Aylesbury YOI in February 2011.
After his return Spiller repeatedly threatened to self-harm. He was referred to the mental health in-reach team and a psychiatrist.
Staff prepared an assessment, care in custody and teamwork plan. ACCT plans are used for prisoners who are at risk of self-harm.
In October 2011 Spiller threatened to self-harm again and on Thursday 3 November he threatened to make a noose.
Two days later he became distressed when he was unable to speak with his girlfriend.
He punched the walls and asked to be constantly observed because he felt like killing himself.
Spiller was allowed to phone his girlfriend and at the end of the call both he and his girlfriend were in tears.
That afternoon Spiller was found hanging in his cell at 2.17pm and, despite attempts to resuscitate him, he was pronounced dead at 3.08pm.
A note in Spiller’s ACCT plan said: “He says he feels he has to make a point and to do this he will hang himself.”
He was monitored four times an hour at one point. This was reduced gradually over a number of days and staff reviewed the plan the day before he died.
Spiller told staff that he had no thoughts of self-harm, had a supportive family and was looking forward to his release when he hoped to move into a flat in Hove with his girlfriend.
But on the day he died he had become agitated, banging his cell door repeatedly and shouting: “Put me on constant watch. I’m going to kill myself.”
Prison officer Lisa Campkin told the inquest: “Billy could say this five or six times a day, every day sometimes, depending on his mood and what he actually wanted.”
She said that Spiller had admitted using the ACCT plan to make himself heard.
She checked on Spiller at 1pm on the day he died and said that he was feeling better, having been allowed to phone his girlfriend.
But an hour later she checked on him again and saw him hanging.
Spiller, who was 6ft 6in tall, was taken down. Efforts were made to revive him and he was taken to hospital but pronounced dead on arrival.
A pathologist gave the cause of death as suspension.
Dawn Spiller said: “After having to wait for nearly a year and a half to find out what happened on that tragic day, we hope to get closer to the truth and find out exactly what went so terribly wrong.
“We would like answers as to why my son had to lose his life in a state-run establishment that should have been protecting his wellbeing.”
She has been supported by Inquest, which provides free independent advice to bereaved people on contentious deaths and their investigation, with a particular focus on deaths in custody.
Deborah Coles, co-director of Inquest, said: “This is another troubling death in prison of a very vulnerable young man with a history of self-harm and mental health needs that warrants wide-ranging scrutiny.”
Inquest said that Spiller was the second young man to take his own life in Aylesbury YOI in 2011 and that seven young men had taken their own lives there since 2000.
The coroner’s inquest, which opened yesterday (Monday 22 April), is scheduled to last for three weeks.