Adrian Johnson

Local Guardian:

Murder suspect found dead in prison tried to harm self after tobacco withdrawal, Southwark Coroner’s Court hears.

A murder suspect found dead in prison tried to harm himself just days before because he was suffering from a withdrawal of tobacco, a court heard.

Father-of-two Adrian Johnson, 27, tied a TV aerial around his neck in an apparent cry for help at HMP High Down on May 8, 2010, stating his main cause of distress as a withdrawal of cigarettes, Southwark Coroner’s Court heard on Tuesday.

Just days later, on Thursday, May 13, 2010, he was found dead in his cell after he was transferred to Belmarsh Prison, in Thamesmead. The nurse that assessed him on his arrival had ranked him as low risk.

Mr Johnson who was accused of murder and ABH, on May 4, told prison staff he had no recollection of the offence and did not know when it occurred.

The former warehouseman, had been charged with stabbing to death 49-year-old Robert Anthony Lewis and with assaulting Colin Buckfield at a shared home for vulnerable adults in Cheam Road, Sutton, on May 4.

The court heard on Tuesday that Mr Johnson, a former warehouse man, usually smoked 40 cigarettes a day, suffered from schizophrenia, had a history of substance misuse and had attempted to take his own life on multiple occasions in the past.

On arrival at HMP High Down Mr Johnson saw a substance misuse doctor but she did not question him about smoking because prisoners were not denied tobacco and the healthcare staff were unable to prescribe it, the jury heard.

Daniel Craft, senior officer at HMP High Down was called out when Mr Johnson was found ligatured to a disability rail, next to the toilet, in his gated cell at 1.35pm on Saturday, May 8.

Mr Craft said he was lying on the floor and crying uncontrollably. He later told staff his main cause of distress was the withdrawal of cigarettes and he had no funds to buy more. The next time Mr Craft saw Mr Johnson, about 16 hours later, he was laughing and joking and he had managed to borrow some tobacco from another prisoner.

Mr Craft said: “He called it a cry for help – he wanted tobacco.” Mr Johnson was referred to a mental health nurse but his next of kin were not informed.

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