Burglary suspect 'dead on his feet'

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A burglary suspect who hanged himself in a courthouse cell was "dead on his feet" when he was finally cut down by Securicor guards, an inquest was told yesterday.

An inquest at Hammersmith Coroners' Court, west London, has heard that the guards believed that Peter Austin, 30, was faking suicide because they noticed that his feet were touching the ground. They allegedly watched him hanging from the light-fitting for 10 minutes without taking any action. But Doctor Iain West, head of Pathology at Guy's Hospital, London, said yesterday: "A substantial minority of people who hang themselves have their feet on the ground ... People have hanged themselves from door handles."

Mr Austin, of Hammersmith, was found dead in the cell below Brentford magistrates' court, west London, on 29 January after being charged with burglary. He was the first person to die in the custody of Securicor, the private security firm. The case continues. Kathy Marks