My mother died days after she went to prison

A mother jailed for shoplifting shampoo and cheese took her own life after her cries for help were ignored by prison staff, an inquest has heard.

Christine McDonald, 55, was discovered by prison staff with self-inflicted wounds in her cell at HMP Styal, Cheshire, on March 2, 2019 – just two days after she was sent to prison for shoplifting. An inquest at Cheshire Coroners’ Court in Warrington concluded that neglect contributed to Ms McDonald taking her own life, with a jury finding that staff had failed to follow proper healthcare guidelines.

Ms McDonald’s daughter Cheri said: “The prison and health care staff had a responsibility and duty of care to at least ensure she stayed alive, they failed to do so.” The inquest, which ended on May 10, heard that Ms McDonald was sent to HMP Styal Lockdown Prison for two offenses of shoplifting small valuables such as shampoo, bubble bath, hair dye and cheese, and one offense of failing to comply with a community requirement of a suspended sentence.

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Mrs McDonald, who was struggling with an opiate addiction, was arrested in Blackpool along with another of her daughters, Kristy, who fell from the third floor and was seriously injured. Upon her arrival at the jail on May 1, 2019, her behavior was described as anxious, suffering from opiate withdrawal, and concerned about her daughter’s injuries.

The inquest jury heard evidence that opiate dependence is a serious health problem and that rapid detoxification should be avoided, with additional observations needed for those who withdraw. Ms. McDonald experienced significant withdrawal symptoms that indicated a depressed mood.

On May 2, she was taken to Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester following concerns raised during a medical assessment in prison. She was then returned to HMP Styal. The jury heard that documents about her drug addiction had not been read and information about her daughter’s welfare had not been passed on. On her return to hospital, the prison should have carried out a clinical assessment and ensured additional overnight observations took place.

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