Tragedy of man who died in police cell

A MAN hanged himself in police custody after ripping up his trousers and tying them to the toilet flush. Neal Dodd, 29, of Turnberry Court, Wellingborough, died on March 2 in the cells at Wellingborough police station.

An inquest in Kettering yesterday heard police were called to Turnberry Court, where Mr Dodd lived with his parents, just before midnight on March 1, after he returned home drunk, and became involved in a scuffle with his father, Geoffrey.

His parents wanted Mr Dodd to leave the house but did not want any action to be taken against him.

But police arrested him outside the house for a public order offence and he was taken to the police station.

The inquest jury of four men and five women was told police knew of Mr Dodd's history of drug use but had no reason to suspect he suffered from depression. He had previously been prescribed anti-depressants.

While in the cells, Mr Dodd was checked every hour by a custody officer.

At about 1.45am custody assistant Elaine Bellotti checked on him and he asked to see a doctor because he was worried about withdrawal pangs.

But a policy introduced in November, 2002, meant anyone in custody who has taken drugs cannot be given any more for six hours in case of overdose.

At 2.21am Miss Bellotti heard Mr Dodd banging on his cell door.

At the next hourly check at about 2.45am she looked through a glass window and the hatch but could not see Mr Dodd.

She looked through another glass window, saw his mattress was on its side and could see Mr Dodd's leg.

She alerted custody sergeant Martin Roots, who found Mr Dodd had ripped up his trousers and tied them around his neck, attaching them to a toilet flush after loosening the mechanism.

Police health and safety adviser Martin Lammin said: "With a bit of patience a determined individual could have worked a small gap by pulling forward the chrome button to suspend a ligature."

Mr Dodd had been a student on an electrical course at Tresham Institute.

His father Geoffrey said: "He was doing really well. He had self-referred to Huxloe House (a treatment centre in Kettering)."

The jury delivered a verdict that Mr Dodd killed himself.

Ken Longrigg, of Northamptonshire Police's professional standards department, said: "This was a particularly tragic death.

"The Home Office provides design advice for facilities in police cells which was followed when the cells at Wellingborough were constructed. The Home Office was immediately informed.

"Recommendations were made and procedures are now in place for regular inspections of the cell facilities."

Only this week the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights revealed 434 people took their lives in police custody between 1999 and 2003.