Suicide of grief-stricken prison worker

A GRIEF-STRICKEN prison officer took his own life just two days after a colleague died while they were on a group climbing trip, an inquest has heard.

A GRIEF-STRICKEN prison officer took his own life just two days after a colleague died while they were on a group climbing trip, an inquest has heard.

Richard Self, 53, was found hanging from a pylon in a field in Knodishall, near Saxmundham, shortly after Jacqueline Donnelly, a friend and colleague from Warren Hill prison, died in a tragic rock climbing accident.

An inquest held at Lowestoft magistrates court yesterday heard that Mr Self had been grieving since his partner Caroline Burnham, who also worked at Warren Hill prison, was found hanging in May this year.

Mr Self, of Tennyson Road in Saxmundham, had been persuaded to go on the trip with colleagues from the prison, including Mrs Donnelly, and led the group as he was an experienced climber.


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After Mrs Donnelly's tragic accident, near Robin Hood's Cave on Stanage Edge in Derbyshire on Saturday September 5, the group drove back to Suffolk.

Deputy coroner for Suffolk Yvonne Blake said: “Mr Self was feeling bad about what had happened on the trip, but his colleagues all reassured him that he had done nothing wrong and could not have prevented the accident.”

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The inquest heard that Mr Self's colleagues were worried about him when they got home to Suffolk, but that they arranged to go and see Mrs Donnelly's husband together.

Ms Blake said: “It was clear that climbing had been his way of coping after the death of his partner.”

However on Monday September 7, Mr Self was found hanging from a pylon in a field by a member of the public.

Recording a verdict of suicide, Ms Blake said: “He had left a note at home. It seems quite clear that he both understood and intended the consequences of his actions.”

Following the deaths of Mr Self, Ms Burnham and Mrs Donnelly, prison governor Roger Plant said that all three had been inspirational members of staff.

He said: “The art of being a good prison officer of a juvenile prison is not easily defined. The role demands a fine touch and a demonstrable care for individuals. These three officers all possessed those qualities.

“Staff and young men at Warren Hill are trying hard to come to terms with the deaths of three of its finest so close together.”

An inquest into Mrs Donnelly's death was opened and adjourned at Chesterfield Coroner's Office on in September pending further inquiries.

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