Guard denies suicide claims

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The Independent Online
A Securicor guard who saw a burglary suspect hanging in his cell denied yesterday that she had claimed he was faking a suicide attempt.

Camille Elliott-Kamara told an inquest in Hammersmith, west London, that the Securicor staff on duty in the cells at Brentford Magistrates' Court had treated the incident as an emergency and reacted swiftly.

Peter Austin, 30, died at the courthouse on 29 January this year while awaiting a bail hearing. The inquest was told yesterday by counsel for Securicor that the firm had not held an inquiry into his death.

Miss Elliott-Kamara rejected the version of events given by Mr Austin's barrister, Stuart Armstrong, who alleged that guards saw him hanging but did not enter his cell for 10 minutes. She denied having a lengthy discussion with Mr Armstrong about whether he was feigning suicide: "I do recall saying to him something to the effect that we've got to be sure that he's not just luring us in there."

The inquest heard that although Mr Austin's conduct in the cells suggested that he was in a disturbed state, he was not placed on a special watch until after he was cut down. By then, according to evidence from the pathologist, he was already dead, although Securicor guards had pronounced him fit and left him lying on the floor in the recovery position.

Patrick O'Connor QC, counsel for Mr Austin's family, said Miss Elliott- Kamara's account was in profound conflict with Mr Armstrong's. "Someone is not telling the truth here and it's you," he said. She said that was not the case. Mr O'Connor suggested that she had insisted repeatedly that Mr Austin was playing a trick. "You were fully aware of the dangers of such an incident and you recklessly disregarded them," he said.

Miss Elliott-Kamara disagreed with that suggestion.

The case continues today.