‘No third party or criminal act’ involved in death
Terence Papworth, aged 45, was an inmate at HMP Leeds, also known as HMP Armley, waiting to stand trial for the murder of Amy-Leanne Stringfellow when he was found hanged in his cell on the morning of November 22, 2020. A provisional date for Papworth’s trial had been set for eight days after his death, on November 30, 2020.
During the first day of Papworth’s jury inquest at Wakefield Coroners’ Court on June 14, Detective Constable, John Beaumont, who was sent to the prison following Papworth’s death, gave evidence.
He confirmed police had determined there was ‘no third party or criminal act that had caused his death’.
‘He told us what he wanted at his funeral’
Giving evidence, Papworth’s sister, Jacqueline Dunn, told jurors that during conversations with her and their mother, Sandra Papworth, during his 23-week stint at the prison he had spoken of wanting to take his own life on ‘several occasions’.
When Senior Coroner, Kevin McLoughlin, asked Ms Dunn about what indication Papworth had given about wanting to kill himself, she did not describe his exact wording, but added: “He told us what he wanted at his funeral.”
Covid restrictions in place at the time of Papworth’s stint in prison meant visits were extremely limited, and Ms Dunn said she was only able to visit him once, and his mother twice; but added that they both spoke to him regularly on the telephone.
The jury was told how Papworth had made at least three previous attempts to take his own life during his time on remand, on June 9, July 15 and November 5, by taking overdoses of painkillers and anti-depressants.
The court heard how following the July 15 overdose, Papworth, of Dryden Road, Balby telephoned his mother and told her he had taken an extremely high number of two different types of painkillers.
Ms Papworth subsequently phoned the prison, and her son was seen by a number of medical staff at the prison and he was taken to hospital for treatment on July 16.
Prison’s ACCT (assessment, care in custody and teamwork plan) process
During evidence from Alex Littlewood, Prison Governor at HMP Leeds, jurors were told how prisoners at ‘risk of self harm’ or experiencing a mental health ‘crisis’ would be put on an ACCT (assessment, care in custody and teamwork plan) process.
The court was told how prisoners on the ACCT process receive mental health support from specially trained members of staff; are also monitored extremely closely, in some cases with a prison officer constantly stationed outside their cell, and a review is undertaken before they can be removed from the ACCT process.
Papworth was on an ACCT process for 40 per cent, or nine out of his 23 weeks at the prison; but he was not on one at the time of his death, jurors were told.
Giving evidence, Sean Kelly who was custodial manager of HMP Leeds at the time of Papworth’s death but has since retired, acknowledged that even in periods of isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic when prisoners would be kept in their cells for up to 23 hours a day it was possible for medication, including painkillers, to be traded by prisoners.
When asked if he believed reasonable efforts were made to support Papworth, Mr Kelly added: “I think you can see by the entries made [into prison records] by different members of staff we were trying our best for Terry during a really, really difficult time for him in that environment that was also difficult for staff, we were going through Covid.”
‘Anxiety’ about upcoming trial
Ms Dunn questioned why her brother had not been placed on an ACCT process for the entirety of his time in prison, due to her belief his mental health history, which includes a number of previous suicide attempts outside of the prison environment, should have presented enough ‘triggers’ for such a measure to be deemed necessary.
She also described Papworth as being ‘really anxious’ about his upcoming trial.
“He was dyslexic, and found it difficult to speak publicly. He was okay if he knew people, he was fine, but if you had him in a room where there were strange people, he found it very, very difficult. He would stutter if you had him in a room of people he didn’t know,“ she said.
Ms Dunn told jurors that Papworth had changed solicitors just seven days before his trial was due to begin, and claimed the presiding judge had previously told him that ‘under no circumstances’ would the trial date be moved.
She also said Papworth was struggling to prepare himself for, and go through paperwork relating to, his trial due to disruptions caused by his cellmate.
The court heard how Papworth was subsequently moved to a private cell, where he was later found dead.
Bundle of letters to friends and family
Following Papworth’s death, fellow inmate Paul Mitchell handed in a bundle of around 15 letters to friends and family Papworth had asked him to keep and pass on ‘if anything should happen to me’.
In a statement read to the court, Mr Mitchell said he and Papworth had worked in the prison’s clothing exchange store together.
Mr Mitchell described how Papworth initially brought paperwork from his trial to work on during his shifts at the clothing exchange, and said he had ‘sacked his barrister’ because ‘he wasn’t happy with how he was handling his case’.
Mr Mitchell, who has since been released from prison, said he noticed Papworth’s attitude and demeanour begin to change about three weeks before his death.
“He was sat with his head in his hands. He wasn’t doing paperwork or anything, proper depressed,” Mr Mitchell said in his statement.
Mr Mitchell said Papworth also talked about hanging himself in his cell on multiple occasions, adding: “You just didn’t know if he was serious or not because he was a joker.”
Mr Mitchell noted that Papworth’s low mood appeared to come to an end about a week before his death.
He said: “He was a completely changed man, he was laughing and joking. I said to the lads: ‘I can’t believe that’s the same guy’.”
The inquest continues
Papworth’s inquest is due to continue today (Wednesday, June 15).
Ms Stringfellow, a former soldier who served in Afghanistan, was killed at the home of Papworth, with whom she had been in a relationship, on June 5, 2020.
Her inquest, which was held last March at Doncaster Coroners’ Court, heard how Papworth was on bail at the time of the fatal attack after being charged with assaulting her on an earlier occasion.
Assistant coroner Louise Slater recorded a conclusion of unlawful killing.