Prisoner admits torturing and hanging cellmate

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

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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas