Mother warned prison chiefs that daughter wanted to kill herself before she took overdose

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The Independent Online

A retired lecturer broke down in tears as she told an inquest yesterday how her only daughter descended into a life of crime and drugs, ending in a prison overdose.

Pauline Campbell said her daughter Sarah, 18, died at Styal prison in Cheshire despite repeated warnings to the authorities that she was suicidal.

Sarah had been a promising art student and a tennis champion in her youth, the inquest heard. But she was introduced to cannabis at Blacon College in Chester and later became hooked on heroin, Mrs Campbell said.

The inquest, at Warrington Town Hall, held a one-minute silence, at Mrs Campbell's request, for her daughter, and five other prisoners who died within a year at Styal prison.

Sarah Campbell was arrested for manslaughter in May 2002, with another woman, after they tried to get money from a pensioner who collapsed and died of a heart attack.

She was jailed in January 2003. The next day she collapsed and died after taking 112 antidepressant tablets, three days before her 19th birthday.

Mrs Campbell said she had made the prison aware many times that her daughter was vulnerable and had been self-harming. Sarah had been on suicide watch when she took the overdose, the inquest was told. Mrs Campbell said her daughter had been prescribed the antidepressant Seroxat in 2000, when she was 16, after trying to harm herself. She had tried to hang herself while on remand at Styal.

Her mother visited her at the all-women jail and said her daughter had become "profoundly depressed".

"I became increasingly concerned about her mental health. I was aware she was self-harming regularly," Mrs Campbell told the inquest.

"Every time I contacted the prison or spoke to staff I asked them to log the call or conversation."

The inquest will hear from 39 witnesses and is due to last for two weeks.

The hearing was adjourned until today.