Open verdict on death of prisoner

An inquest jury returned an open verdict yesterday on a remand prisoner who died after being placed face down by prison officers in a strip cell. Southwark Coroner's Court heard that Kenneth Severin, 25, had been remanded in Belmarsh Prison, Woolwich, for alleged attempted burglary, for three weeks before his death in November 1995.

The unemployed father of two, from Greenwich, south-east London, had a history of schizophrenia. The inquest was told the normal three-man control and restraint team could not control a thrashing Mr Severin, who had threatened to smash up his medical wing cell.

Up to seven or eight officers took him to the strip cell and the inquest heard Mr Severin's death was most likely to have been caused by positional asphyxiation after prison officers placed him face down. The coroner, Sir Montague Levine, said: "I think that it is quite appalling medical officers did not know what his condition was."

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