Prisoner in bodybelt was found dead in cell

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An inmate at Dartmoor prison died in a special cell while restrained in a body belt to which he was handcuffed, an inquest was told yesterday.

Dennis Stevens, 29, from Bristol, was found dead on 18 October 1995. Richard Van Oppen, the coroner, told the jury at Exeter that Stevens appeared to have died from acute kidney failure due to muscle damage, to which sickleing of the red blood cells may have contributed.

Stevens suffered from a genetic structural variance in the composition of red blood cells which could damage tissues of vital organs, Mr Van Oppen said.

The coroner told the jury that Stevens was convicted of robbery and jailed for 12 years in October 1988. He had been detained in various prisons and was eventually transferred to Dartmoor in September1995. After several attacks on prison officers he was taken under restraint to a special cell early on 17 October.

The coroner said Stevens - who had covered himself in margarine - was placed in a leather body belt which had handcuffs at the sides to which he was attached.

Prison staff logged inspections of him every 15 minutes. At 8.15 am on 18 October Stevens, still in the bodybelt, was found dead. The hearing continues.