Self-harm prisoner in suicide days later

Alan O'Keeffe

A man who was found hanging in his prison cell had deliberately harmed himself on his way to court two days earlier, an inquest heard.

He had been placed in a close supervision cell, but was removed from that cell the following day.

Nicolae Sobchenco (37) from Leixlip, Co Kildare was found hanging in his cell at Cloverhill Prison just before 3am on May 27, 2009.

He was taken to Tallaght Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 3.40am. A post-mortem by the deputy state pathologist Dr Michael Curtis found he died of hanging.

A jury of seven women and three men recorded a verdict of death by suicide at the Dublin County Coroner's Court.

Dublin County Coroner's Court heard Mr Sobchenco, a Moldovan national, had deliberately harmed himself using handcuffs while he was being transported for an appearance at the Central Criminal Court on May 25.

Mr Sobchenco was immediately returned to Cloverhill prison where he was seen by a doctor who requested the Moldovan man be placed in a close supervision cell for special observation.

Community mental health nurse Martin Caddow saw Mr Sobchenco on May 25 and said his impression was Mr Sobchenco was suffering from acute stress reaction.

The following day, on May 26, Nurse Caddow said Mr Sobchenco was more forthcoming and described himself as feeling calm and said his mood was okay.

Sobchenco had been charged with the attempted murder of a former friend following a shooting incident at the Garda sports club in Westmanstown on February 22, 2009. He described feeling remorseful and guilty about his alleged offence.

"He mentioned he didn't realise there were children in the car when he shot the man," said Mr Caddow.

He was hopeful for the future and denied any thoughts or plans to harm himself or others, said Nurse Caddow, who cleared him for return to a normal landing, which Mr Sobchenco had requested.

The jury recommended that if somebody self harms, they should have a longer period of supervision.

They also requested the prison authorities to re-evaluate the response time of prison officers in such situations and the issue of alerting staff doing rounds.