Prisoner admits torturing and hanging cellmate

Arsonist lied about 'abetting suicide' of man on remand in Leeds prison four years ago
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The Independent Online

A man convicted of aiding and abetting the suicide of a remand prisoner, Michael Clegg, 48, told an inquest last week that he had murdered his cellmate.

Neil Preece-Smith, 26, a convicted arsonist, told the court via video link from HMP Leeds that he killed Mr Clegg after being pressured by other prisoners to "deal" with his cellmate, whom they wrongly believed to be a paedophile.

According to Preece-Smith, the two men had been drinking coffee while watching Mission: Impossible II after "lock-down" at 8pm on 9 May 2006 when he "just flipped". He described how he tied Mr Clegg's ankles and hands using the victim's shoelaces while threatening him with a makeshift knife.

"I ripped up a bed sheet, made a noose, made little cuts with the blade [on his lower back and buttocks], not to kill him, but to make him scared enough to put his neck in the noose. Then I gave him three choices: to hang himself, or I would hang him, or I would cut him up." He added: "I helped him on to the pipes... he tried to use his hands to pull himself up but I pulled down on his legs until he was dead. I waited half an hour then pressed the cell bell. "

The coroner, David Hinchliff, asked: "Are you telling me you murdered him?"

"What I told the police was a load of rubbish; I'm telling you the facts now. I can't go back and get re-sentenced."

Within hours of his death, Mr Clegg's mother, who died in 2008, was told by the prison governor that her son had committed suicide. The decision to place her son in a cell with a dangerous lifer was not revealed for months.

Relatives, who never accepted the suicide verdict, wept as Preece-Smith recounted events. Some then walked out as Richard Copnall, treasury counsel for the Prison Service, said Mr Clegg died after a consensual sado-masochistic sex game went "tragically wrong".

Preece-Smith told the jury that he pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting suicide because he "didn't want to get done for a serious charge". He is currently eligible for parole in 2012.

West Yorkshire Police Superintendent Colin Prime, who led the investigation, told the court he had recommended charging Preece-Smith with murder but the CPS believed there was not enough evidence. He will present the CPS with evidence from the inquest within weeks.

Mr Clegg had been in prison for 12 days and was due to be released to a bail hostel the day after his death. He arrived in prison, for the first time, after being discharged from a psychiatric hospital where he had been admitted following an alleged sexual assault on his wife.

On Friday, the prison's former governor, Ian Blakeman, admitted that it had failed to prioritise cell-sharing risk assessments despite recommendations made following the murder of Shahid Aziz at the same prison in 2004.