A mother jailed for stealing shampoo and cheese took her own life after cries for help were ignored

A mother jailed for stealing shampoo and cheese took her own life after her cries for help were ignored by prison staff, an inquest heard.

Christine Macdonald, 55, was found by prison officers self-harming in her cell at HMP Styal, Cheshire on March 2, 2019 – just two days after she was jailed for shoplifting offences. An inquest at Cheshire Coroners’ Court in Warrington concluded that neglect contributed to Mrs MacDonald taking her own life, with jurors finding that staff failed to follow appropriate healthcare guidelines.

Mrs MacDonald’s daughter Cheri said: “The prison and the health staff had a responsibility and a duty of care to at least ensure she stayed alive, they failed to do that.” The inquest, which ended on May 10, heard that Ms McDonald was sent to HMP Styal closed prison for two offenses of shoplifting shampoo, bath foam, hair dye and cheese and one offense of failing to comply with a community suspended sentence requirement.

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Mrs MacDonald, who was battling opiate addiction, was arrested in Blackpool with another of her daughters, Christy, who fell from the third floor and suffered serious injuries. Upon her arrival at the prison on May 1, 2019, her behavior was described as anxious, suffering from opiate withdrawal and concerned about her daughter’s injuries.

The inquest heard evidence that opiate addiction is a serious health problem and rapid detoxification should be avoided, with further follow-up for those who quit. Mrs Macdonald suffered significant withdrawal symptoms indicating low mood.

On May 2, she was taken to Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester due to concerns raised during a health assessment at the prison. She was subsequently returned to HMP Styal. Jurors heard that records detailing her drug addiction were not read – and information about her daughter’s welfare was not passed on. After her return to hospital, the prison should have carried out a clinical assessment and provided additional overnight observations.

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