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Young inmate Alex Kelly killed himself at Cookham Wood prison in Rochester

A jury has returned a verdict of suicide after a six-week inquest into the death of a 15-year-old inmate.

Alex Kelly was discovered hanging at Cookham Wood Young Offenders Institute in January 2012 and was taken to Medway Maritime Hospital where he died the next day.

Serving a 10-month detention and training order for burglary and theft from a vehicle, Alex, who had lived with foster carers in Medway since 2002, had been identified as being at risk of self harm.

Alex Kelly, who died aged 15
Alex Kelly, who died aged 15

He had repeatedly put notes on the observation panel of his cell saying he was going to “string himself up”, but this had not been recorded at a safeguarding meeting.

Alex had expressed a desire not to return to his foster parents and wanted to see his grandmother.

This hadn’t been arranged and the inquest revealed poor communication between Cookham Wood and Tower Hamlets council, Alex’s “corporate parent”, had been a factor.

Cookham Wood Young Offenders Institution
Cookham Wood Young Offenders Institution

He had stopped engaging in activities, graffitied his cell, repeatedly tattooed himself as well as the threats to kill himself, but the inquest heard he would sometimes laugh after making such statements, and say he was just trying to annoy officers.

In the hours leading up to him being found hanged, he opened up to prison staff about being sexually abused as a young child, and became tearful, which was out of character.

Observations of his cell were increased, but were not sufficient. When Alex was discovered there was some delay as officers followed protocol, waiting for three officers to be present before entering, but even without the delay it is thought they would have been too late to save him.

After two days of deliberations, the jury at Archbishop's Palace in Maidstone recorded a unanimous verdict of suicide.

Speaking after the hearing, Alex’s father Nick Popat, said: “My son got lost in the system. No male or female should be in prison at the age of 15.

"Hopefully something good can come out of this but I cannot say, hand on heart that it won't happen again."

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