Convicted killer serving life sentence in prison dies after catching Covid

A convicted killer has died after contracting Covid during an ‘outbreak’ in prison.

David Spence, who was jailed for life for murder in 1982, died of a stroke in December 2020 as a result of coronavirus.

The murderer had been released on license but was brought back into custody and transferred to HMP Northumberland in April 2019.

A report by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) published in January found that Spence, 64, had received care equivalent to what he might have expected on the outside whilst in prison.

But he insisted he had been unnecessarily restrained on his final emergency trip to hospital, Chronicle Live reports.

He tested positive for coronavirus on December 11 – the same day a prison nurse found him short of “breath, confused, shaking and unable to stand”.

The killer also suffered from substance misuse and mental health problems, as well as a slow heart rate.

After initially appearing to stabilize, He was rushed to Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital later that evening.

He suffered a stroke the following morning and was rendered uncommunicative.

After his condition deteriorated further, he was moved to Wansbeck Hospital for palliative care on December 16. He died on December 18.

The PPO report judged the quality of his care to be “equivalent to that he could have expected to receive in the community.”

It also assessed the management of his risk of being infected by coronavirus.

Inspectors had ruled that the Sodexo-run prison had made a “timely response to the pandemic”, with “good communication on precautions to help prevent the spread of the infection”.

Staff had appropriate access to PPE but, while social distancing was managed for queues, it was less well-maintained in informal situations and some residential areas.

The report added: “Mr Spence was not considered to be vulnerable to serious illness if he contracted Covid-19 and was therefore not required to shield. He was tested immediately each time he displayed characteristic symptoms of the infection and healthcare staff referred him promptly to secondary care when his condition worsened.

“As he had not left Northumberland for any reason during the weeks leading to his Covid-19 diagnosis, we conclude that he contracted the virus during the outbreak at the prison.”

Finally, the use of restraints on Spence’s final journey out of the prison was considered.

The report said: “Mr Spence was a Category C prisoner and therefore the standard handcuff arrangements for his security category was a single cuff, not double cuffs as the prison said. In addition, Mr Spence was acutely unwell when he left the prison. hospital’s death certificate noted that he had been admitted with reduced consciousness and dense left-sided weakness.

“We believe that the security department should have given greater priority to seeking medical input to the risk assessment. We are not satisfied that the assessment and decision to use restraints took proper account of Mr Spence’s poor physical condition.”

Prison staff were advised to make sure they understand the legalities of restraint use and properly consider prisoner’s health and the actual risk they pose in such circumstances in future.

A spokesman for HMP Northumberland said: Our thoughts are very much with the family of Mr Spence, who sadly passed away in December 2020.

“We cooperated fully with the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman’s review and noted that the Ombudsman report states the standard of healthcare Mr Spence received was of a reasonable standard and equivalent to what he could have expected to receive in the community.

“We accepted the recommendation made in the report and implemented an action plan which has since been completed.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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