A PRISONER who heard voices telling her to harm herself and who was found several times with items tied around her neck was not judged suicidal, an inquest jury heard.

Margaret Atkinson was found unconscious in her cell in the mental care unit at HMP Low Newton, near Durham, with clothing tied around her neck shortly before midnight on January 24 last year.

She died nine days later in hospital as a result of anoxic brain damage and non-judicial hanging.

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A jury at Crook Coroner's Court heard the 47-year-old, originally from Northallerton, was serving her third spell inside, for assault.

Coroner Andrew Tweddle heard she had an “extensive history” of mental health issues and was diagnosed with bipolar and an emotionally unstable personality disorder.

Psychiatrist Dr Abebe Ejara said: "Voices (in Ms Atkinson’s head) were telling her to harm herself or harm others”.

The inquest heard she had been found with various items of clothing or bedding tied around her neck on several occasions and, while she demanded to be moved to a psychiatric ward, there was “no clinical basis” for such a transfer.

Joanne Pendleton, clinical lead for the prison’s mental health team, said: “Through my time with Maggie I never thought she presented as suicidal.”

She said incidents of tying ligatures around her neck were viewed as “a way of communicating her emotions”.

However, due to her being deemed to be at risk of harming herself or others, she was, during all her three spells in custody, subject to an Assessment Care and Custody Teamwork (ACCT) programme, providing extra support and regular checks.

She was also subject to numerous reviews by prison and health care staff.

Prison governor Peter Macellaro said he had no concerns over the way the ACCT was kept, including regular checks, adding: “Had there been a problem it would have been highlighted to me.”

The inquest continues.