Transgender prisoner found hanged in Woodhill prison had history of violence and self harm

A transgender prisoner who slashed her wrists after becoming frustrated over delays in receiving make-up brushes committed suicide, a jury inquests has ruled.

Tuesday, 20th September 2016, 9:58 am
Updated Wednesday, 5th October 2016, 1:55 pm
MPMC Woodhill Prison

Joanne Marie Latham, 38, barricaded herself in her cell on November 27 last year and slashed her wrists with shards of glass from a broken TV screen.

She then hanged herself from a window bracket and was found dead by prison officers.

Despite ruling she killed herself, jurors also blasted a “failure of communication” between members of the prison service which may have contributed to her death.

Following the five-day inquest at Milton Keynes Coroners’ Court, a prison service spokesperson said: “Our sympathies are with the Latham family.

“As a result of the prisons and probation ombudsman’s investigation, we accepted all of the recommendations put forward.

“Safety in prisons is fundamental to the proper functioning of our justice system and a vital part of our reform plans.

“We will consider the findings of the inquest to see what lessons can be learned.”

Joanne - formally Eddie - who was serving three life terms for three attempted murders in all-male prison HMP Woodhill.

Alan Parkins, head of operations at HMP Woodhill, said: “Eddie probably was one of the most challenging prisoners I have ever managed.”

The day before she died she had been in an argument over a 16 day delay in receiving make-up brushes.

At the time, Latham was living in the prison’s close supervision centre where dangerous and disruptive prisoners are housed.

She had been placed under surveillance in response to her aggressive behaviour over the delay but this was removed on November 19 - despite her still not receiving the brushes.

A week later, on November 26 she was informed there would be a further delay and she became aggressive.

Later that evening Latham barricaded herself in her cell and covered the observation panel with a cloth.

She was verbally checked hourly and then every half an hour, but at 4.30am there was no response from her cell and attempts where made to enter it.

It took officers almost an hour before they were able to climb over the barricade and reach the prisoner, who began living as a woman three months earlier.

The former convert of Islam was found hanging from the window bracket and had a 16cm skin deep cut on her left forearm and despite CPR, was pronouced dead at 6.20am.

A post-mortem examination concluded Latham had died from hanging.

The jury heard that Miss Latham, originally from Manchester, suffered from mental health problems and had a history of violence and self harm.

This including two attempts to kill fellow prisoners.

Coroner Tom Osbourne, said: “Eddie Latham had been sentenced to life imprisonment in May 2001 and had a long history of self-harm and a borderline personality disorder.

“He was then sentenced to two further terms of life imprisonment for attempted murder on two other prisoners.

“He changed his name, converted to Islam, converted back to Christianity and was asked to be considered as transgender and changed his name to Joanne.

“Eddie was referred to a clinic in London and started to live life as a woman at Woodhill.

“He was subject to a four-man unlock because of the risk of violence and associated himself very little with other prisoners by choice.

“In November 2015, Eddie had ordered some make-up brushes and there was a delay in getting permission for him to receive the brushes and he became upset.

“On November 11, he was observed by suicide prevention and on November 19, was discharged from asessment, care in custody and teamwork (ACCT).

“On November 26, Eddie was told there would be a further delay in receiving the brushes and he became aggressive and threatened violence against himself and members of staff.

“Eddie Latham self-harmed by cutting his arm quite deeply by using glass from the broken television set he smashed.

“Observations increased to two each hour and no attempt was made to remove the barricade. In addition, he had covered up the observation window to his cell.

“At 4.30am on November 27, there was no response from Eddie and staff were called, but there was no attempt to go in until 5.26am, when staff got in over the barricade and he was found hanging.

“He was declared dead at 6.20am.”