Prison officer didn't notice sex offender was dead in his cell 'for some time'

·3 min read
Stephen Maddock, 59, died on 7 December at HMP Rye Hill, a Category B men's private prison in Rugby, Northamptonshire. (Google Maps)

A prison has been criticised after a report found an officer “failed to notice” a dead sex offender in his cell.

Stephen Maddock, 59, died on 7 December, 2019, at HMP Rye Hill, a Category B men's private prison in Rugby, Northamptonshire.

An investigation found that the officer who unlocked Maddock’s cell on the morning of 7 December failed to do a welfare check and therefore did not identify that the prisoner was dead on his cell floor.

Maddock’s body was only found after other prisoners alerted staff who unlocked his cell at 8.30am.

The prisons and probation ombudsman report found that Maddock had been “dead for some time” and noted that his body had rigor mortis when it was found, indicating he had been dead for at least two hours.

The officer was later dismissed after a disciplinary hearing.

The report said: “When unlocking a prisoner’s cell, the officer is supposed to get a response from the prisoner to satisfy themselves that they are alive and well.

A man stands in a prison cell by a barred window, his head in his hand.
The prisons and probation ombudsman found that Maddock had been 'dead for some time' when his body was found.

“This did not happen, which meant that no one realised that Maddock was dead for another half an hour.”

The report also said Maddock could have been dead during the 6am roll check, for which another officer reported “no issues”.

Neither of the officers involved have been identified.

Maddock was convicted of sexual offences in 2015 and sentenced to 16 years’ imprisonment.

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He had several health issues and was clinically obese. At Rye Hill he received medication for hypertension and diabetes.

A postmortem examination discovered he died from acute pancreatitis, and fatty liver cirrhosis (scarring of the liver, causing it to stop working properly) was listed as a contributory factor.

The report said that the night before the death, an officer was told by a colleague that Maddock had not collected his food.

The officer went to his cell to check on him and asked if he would like his meal. Maddock said he did not, because he was feeling nauseous.

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The officer suggested he might have a stomach bug and that if he needed to be seen by a nurse after the cells were locked, he should use his cell bell to get help. The cell bell record shows that Maddock did not activate his cell bell overnight.

The report concluded: “It is apparent from this case that officers are not properly looking into cells to check that the occupant is there and that there are no immediate issues that need attention.

“The Director of Rye Hill should ensure that all staff understand what is expected of them when conducting roll checks and that all staff adhere to these expectations.”

A report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons who conducted an unannounced inspection in September 2019 found that HMP Rye Hill concluded it was “an effective prison delivering good outcomes”, but added that a survey of prisoners saw them “raise questions about their perceptions of safety, a finding worth further exploration by the prison.

“Similarly, the amount of force used and the number of adjudications initiated seemed misaligned with other findings and required better understanding by the prison.”

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