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10:00am Tuesday 12th November 2013
A PRISONER on suicide watch took a fatal overdose just days after burning the initials DNR for ‘do not resuscitate’ into his chest, an inquest has heard. David Ward, 45, was serving 18 years at Bullingdon Prison, near Bicester, for eight counts of rape and two of sexual assault on a teenage girl. He had a history of mental health problems and, in August last year, used an incense stick to burn the initials in two-inch high letters into his chest. Although he was put on suicide watch, he was able to overdose on anti-depressants and pain medication. The death has put more pressure on Oxford Health, which was responsible at the time for most of the healthcare at the jail. Oxford Health has been criticised recently after life prisoner Ian McLean walked out of Littlemore Mental Health Centre and travelled to Poland, where he took his own life, and for its handling of Kauthar Silvera, who murdered her mother days after being discharged from the same place. Yesterday, a jury at Oxford Coroner’s Court found Ward had intentionally taken the prescription medication but they could not be sure he had intended to take his own life. Ward, of Meadow Way in Theale, Berkshire, was jailed at Reading Crown Court in January 2012 for sex assaults on a girl between the age of 13 and 16. He had suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome (ME) for more than 20 years and had received mental health treatment since 2000, including Oxford Health since 2011. At the inquest yesterday, the coroner was told that Ward was frustrated with Bullingdon staff because he was on a lower dose of diazepam, which he took to treat the pain from ME, than he had been on outside prison. He burnt DNR into his chest to show staff he “meant business”, the court heard, and this resulted in his being placed on suicide watch on August 3 last year. Despite frequent checks by staff, on August 21 he took an overdose of venlafaxine, an anti-depressant which he took 75mg of twice a day, and tramadol, an opiate-based painkiller which he was prescribed 400mg of once a day. He collected the doses from a medication hatch in Bullingdon every day. Prisoner Stuart Thorne, in evidence read out during the inquest, said: “He came over to where I was sitting in the middle of the wing. “He was sweating all over his head and neck and turned an ashen colour. “I asked if he was alright and he said, I have just OD’d. I asked: do you want me to tell anyone and he said no and winked at me.” Carol Gaskin, head of reducing reoffending at Bullingdon, said the continuous observations showed he was “fully engaging” with staff and was a “low risk”. Gavin Garman, head of nursing, specialized services at Oxford Health, said he could only speculate how Ward had managed to obtain the lethal dose.