Young dad died after taking drugs at Strangeways, inquest hears

An Oldham dad died after taking drugs at Strangeways, an inquest heard.

Patrick “Paddy” Ward was found unresponsive in his cell on the afternoon of August 18, 2020.

The 28-year-old, from Clarksfield had been jailed three months prior to his death following an incident involving a stolen van.

The father-of-two was known to use drugs during his time in prison.

An inquest into his death, held in front of a jury, began at Manchester Coroner’s Court on Monday (March 7).

It heard how Mr Ward had not long been locked in his cell before he was discovered at around 3.30pm.

Earlier that day he was allowed out to exercise and have a shower.

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Prison officer Thomas McColl was patrolling the Bravo wing when he opened the flap on Mr Ward’s cell door.

He saw him lying on the ground.

The officer shouted for assistance before entering the cell.

Mr McColl checked for signs of life by touching his arm as another officer started doing chest compressions.

A ‘code blue’ was then issued, meaning the control room would immediately phone for an ambulance.

Sadly, Mr Ward could not be resuscitated and was pronounced dead.

During the hearing, Mr McColl said Mr Ward was often found under the influence of drugs and was receiving mental health care at the time of his death.

He had a history of self-harming and was known to use ‘spice’.

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Officers told the court drugs often entered the prison by being thrown over walls or soaked into legal papers.

Another prison officer, Jordan Richards, told the jury drug taking is a “very big issue” at HMP Manchester.

Mr Richards said Mr Ward was found under the influence of drugs “almost every day” since his arrival at the prison.

He told the court he last saw Mr Ward at around 1.50pm when he let him outside to the exercise yard.

He recalled him being “fine” and “seemed to be happy”.

Paddy with his daughter, Iyla-Rae

Mr Richards said he did not appear to be under the influence of drugs at this time.

He next saw him an hour later when he allowed Mr Ward to go for a shower.

Once finished, I have locked him in his cell for the last time.

Michelle Brooks, a nurse at GMP Manchester, was on duty the day Mr Ward passed away.

She told the court he was taking haloperidol at the time of his death – a drug used for psychotic symptoms.

Ms Brooks was administering drugs elsewhere when she heard there had been a ‘code blue’ on the wing.

Once she arrived at Mr Ward’s cell, officers had already begun CPR.

She noticed Mr Ward’s face was a “very dark color in purple”.

This showed there had been no sign of life for some “considerable amount of time”.

James Chapman, a supervising officer on the Bravo wing, said Mr Ward, who was jailed for four years and four months, was a polite inmate and often “kept himself to himself”.

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However, they were concerned he was using spice regularly.

He told the court staff shortages meant they were unable to cope with drug problems in the prison.

He said it was “not feasible” for cell searches to be carried out if an inmate was suspected of being under the influence of drugs.

A lawyer representing Mr Ward’s family, Michael Spencer, said Mr Ward was regularly diverting his medication.

This could have been because he was being “bullied” to handover his drugs to other inmates.

In a statement read out in court, Mr Ward’s older brother, Martin Ward, said everything was “going well” for his brother until he was visited by a cousin.

They had not seen the cousin for several years.

Following this visit, Mr Ward was “never the same”.

Martin said: “He was a happy child, very out-going. We were best friends.

“Everything was going well for him.

“I came back from work and Paddy was with our cousin. We hadn’t seen him for a few years.

“He wasn’t the same since that day. He said people were coming for him and he couldn’t sleep.

“We eventually got him help and he was sectioned. We had never noticed mental health problems with Paddy before this.

“Around this time, I have lost his daughter to a stillbirth.

“I spoke to him in prison and he would talk about how much he loved his kids and wanted to turn his life around.

“It hurts me to receive the information about the care Paddy received.”

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A toxicology report found Mr Ward had died from synthetic cannabinoids toxicity with cardiomegaly (an enlarged heart).

The inquest into his death continues.

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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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