The parents of a 25-year-old man left to die in a cell by a negligent prison nurse who was given responsibility for 800 inmates have told how the conditions in which their son died will haunt them forever.
The case: 27th death in just five years at HMP Nottingham – was said to illustrate the desperate state of the increasingly dangerous and understaffed British prison system.
Alex Braund, a pub chef and keen rugby player, was in remand awaiting trial when he fell ill in his cell with the first signs of pneumonia on March 6, 2020.
Four days later, on the morning of March 10, after a series of failed attempts by Braund’s cellmate to get prison staff to take the situation seriously, the young man collapsed.
Prison staff responded to an emergency bell rung by Braund’s cellmate at 6:55 a.m., but initially only looked through the cell hatch, taking five minutes to enter the cell to give CPR.
Braund was subsequently taken to Queen’s Medical Center in Nottingham, where he was pronounced dead at 11:44 a.m. of cardiac arrest caused by pneumonia.
The jury at an inquest at Nottinghamshire Coroner’s Court found there had been a “continuing failure to provide adequate medical care”, with a nurse telling a corrections officer a few hours before Braund’s death that “there was nothing to do at this time of night.”
Cross-examination during the hearing revealed that the nurse, who has since lost her job and been reported to the nursing and midwifery board, had altered her records on the morning of Braund’s death.
Assistant coroner Laurinda Bower has said she intends to refer the case to police in connection with possible crimes of falsifying medical records and perjury.
Braund’s mother, Deborah Grange, 57, a local government official for Matlock in Derbyshire, said the eight days of the hearing on her son’s death had been harrowing.
“I expected it to be bad, but it didn’t prepare me for what we had to see and hear,” he said. “I just lived through Alex’s final moments, you know, he talked to his girlfriend in the early hours. There was a feeling of abandonment, you know, kind of like you’re doomed, you know, destined to end your days in that cell. That will haunt me forever.”
Braund’s father, Tim Braund, 58, who also works in local government, said: “What we are interested in is trying to make sure that no one else suffers. Having listened to the coroner, we have to be skeptical of the organization’s willingness to improve.”
HMP Nottingham was described in a 2020 inspection report as having had for “many years” a “well-deserved reputation for being an unsafe prison”.
An 80-year-old prisoner was strangled to death with a sheet in 2016 while watching billiards in his cell, and another in 2018 was stabbed to death with plastic cutlery, strangled with a shoelace ligature and suffocated with a plastic bag.
The latest inspection report from July 2022 found that violence levels had stabilized, with some signs of progress in other areas, but warned that “health services had been stretched since our last inspection, with staff shortages affected the provision of services.
Braund had been referred to the institution on February 13, 2020 after being charged with possession of a bladed item. His parents said his son had mixed up with people selling recreational drugs, but he had denied carrying a weapon. “But he was there when other people were involved in things that they shouldn’t have been,” his father said. “Obviously he was never tried for that.”
Braund started feeling unwell on March 6. The next day he reported coughing up brown phlegm. She was diagnosed with a common cold. Her chest was not examined with a stethoscope and “no probing questions were asked,” the inquest heard.
At 10:22 p.m. on March 9, the night before he died, the bell in the emergency cell was activated. Braund was said to have looked frightened. His request to go to the hospital was denied and basic checks were not carried out. They told him that an appointment to see a doctor would be made for the next morning.
Contrary to evidence initially provided to the hearing by a corrections officer, the investigation found that there were no further remarks by Braund between 10:52 p.m. and 5:35 a.m. the next day, when his cellmate again played the emergency cell bell.
The nurse still did not visit Braund. At 6:55 a.m., she was called again at the cell bell, and Hill began yelling for help. The cell door was finally opened at 7am and a 999 call was made a minute later.
Lucy McKay, a spokeswoman for the charity Inquest, said: “Alex was neglected by a prison that has a long history of failing to protect the health and well-being of those with a duty of care. Also found in his death were the staff who lied about his actions and the investigators who failed to address this.”
A Prison Service spokesperson said: “Our thoughts remain with the family and friends of Mr Braund. Since this tragic incident, we have introduced additional training for personnel responding to medical emergencies. We will consider the jury’s findings and respond to the coroner’s recommendations in due course.”