Prison Suicide Shock As Warders Slept Or Drank Tea

The suicide of an at-risk inmate at Maghaberry jail has led to an investigation, which this week concluded, by publishing recommendations for a disciplinary investigation into the role of two senior staff.

NI Prison Ombudsman Pauline McCabe has made a total of 44 recommendations following the death of Colin Bell last August in the Co Antrim facility, including scrutiny of the roles of Governor Alan Longwell and his deputy, Steve Davis.

Colin Bell, who was serving a life sentence for murder, hanged himself at the fourth attempt while staff who were supposed to be monitoring him slept.

The 34-year-old was on critical suicide watch and was supposed to be monitored every 15 minutes, but staff failed to do so.
News Image
Disciplinary proceedings are among the recommendations made in the 182-page report by Prisoner Ombudsman Pauline McCabe, which was published last Friday and initially saw 17 prison staff being suspended from duty following an internal investigation that started in October - although not all of those suspended were on duty when Mr Bell died.

It is understood that video camera footage examined as part of the investigation shows prison staff lying in bed watching television while they were supposed to be on duty.

Prison officers not only watched TV, but chatted, drank tea and, in one case, rested in a makeshift bed as Colin Bell made repeated suicide attempts over the course of a final hour in his cell, while staff at Maghaberry failed to carry out checks on him.

CCTV footage showed that over a period of 14 minutes from 10.57 pm, Mr Bell was holding a ligature and made three attempts to hang himself. His fourth, successful, suicide attempt was at 11.41pm. Before this, he had stood in front of the CCTV camera and very deliberately placed the ligature over his head.

He was not spotted until 38 minutes after his fourth, successful, attempt to hang himself.

Mr Bell also tried to contact the Samaritans 73 times in a 30-hour period before his death via a link-up facility in his cell. Almost all of these calls are believed to have resulted in an engaged tone.


Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

09 January 2020
Bottle Wielding Teen Makes Off After Armed Robbery Attempt
A young man attempted to rob a fast food restaurant in east Belfast while carrying a broken bottle, police have said. The suspect, described as being aged in his late teens, targeted a business in the Granton Park area of Tullycarnet at around 6.25pm on Wednesday evening, 08 January.
23 February 2009
Prison Suicide Report Gets Assembly Discussion
Sinn Féin MLA's Raymond McCartney and Martina Anderson will present a motion at the Stormont Assembly today calling for the full implementations of the recommendations of the report made by the Prison Ombudsman into the death of prisoner Colin Bell in Maghaberry Prison.
15 September 2008
Prison Suicide Watch Fails - Again
A killer who failed in two previous suicide bids managed to kill himself on the third attempt, despite being under special guard. As a result, a prison officer at Maghaberry jail has been suspended after Colin Bell - who was under 24-hour suicide watch - was found hanging in his cell.
13 August 2014
Dairy Industry Still Calculating Effects Of Russia Ban - UFU
The UK dairy industry is still attempting to calculate the effect of the current ban on EU agri-foods being imported to Russia, the deputy president of the Ulster Farmers' Union has said. Barclay Bell made the comments during a meeting of representatives of the farming unions across the UK during a meeting in Northern Ireland.
08 October 2013
£1.6m Investment For Play And Leisure
£1.6m is to be invested in enhancing play and leisure opportunities for children and young people in Northern Ireland.