Sussex

Tony Couchman: Questions raised over suicide checks

Tony Couchman
Image caption Tony Couchman was due to stand trial for his daughter's murder

The mental state of a prison inmate who took his own life two days before he was due to go on trial for the murder of his daughter was not properly checked, an inquest jury has ruled.

Tony Couchman, 47, bled to death after slashing his arm in his cell on the wing for vulnerable inmates at HMP Lewes, on 2 January 2010.

He was accused of murdering Victoria Couchman, 19, in May 2008.

The jury sitting at Eastbourne Town Hall returned a verdict of suicide.

'Feeling low'

It ruled: "In the period leading up to his death, there was evidence of low mood but no mental health review was conducted.

"There were no effective observations of potentially vulnerable prisoners whilst in their cells.

"There was no system in place to identify potentially significant events in a prisoner's life."

Earlier the inquest heard Mr Couchman, of St Leonards, East Sussex, was initially placed under regular supervision as he was thought to be a suicide or self-harm risk.

But the jury was told he was not being monitored at the time of his death because prison officers believed he did not pose a danger to himself.

The inquest also heard Mr Couchman spent more than 16 hours in his cell before his body was discovered by an inmate.

He also told a fellow prisoner he was feeling low.

On Tuesday East Sussex coroner Alan Craze raised questions about whether he should have undergone a full mental review, which could have led to him being placed under closer supervision.

Mr Couchman had denied charges of murder and perverting the course of justice and was due to stand trial at Lewes Crown Court.

Miss Couchman's skull was found by children in Redgeland Wood, in the Queensway area of St Leonards, near Hastings, in October 2008.

Further human remains were later discovered near the scene.

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