A RAPIST was found hanged in his prison cell after the "inappropriate and heavy-handed" confiscation of his tapestry easel, a watchdog has found.

Stephen Harper, 56, was found hanged at Durham's HMP Frankland 90 minutes after staff took his easel – art was his favourite prison pastime – on March 26, 2018.

Prison staff acted after a volunteer with the Samaritans reported that Mr Harper had said he intended to hang himself using the wood from his tapestry easel.

A Prison and Probation Ombudsman report said: "The significant information was not that Mr Harper had threatened to hang himself using wood in his cell, but that he had threatened to hang himself.

"We consider that staff should have spoken to Mr Harper, assessed his risk of suicide and decided whether monitoring was appropriate before action to remove items from his cell was considered.

"Mr Harper had a history of threatening suicide and making ligatures, but he also had a history of handing ligatures to staff when they asked for them.

"The importance to Mr Harper of his tapestry easel and in-cell work to him were well known to staff."

The report concluded: "In these circumstances the decision to remove the easel without considering its impact and the possible reaction appear particularly ill-considered.

"Mr Harper did not need to have wood in his cell to attempt suicide or self-harm, as was very sadly demonstrated less than 90 minutes later."

Although deficiencies were found in the way staff operated suicide and self-harm monitoring procedures, it was considered Mr Harper received "very good care" at Frankland.

Mr Harper was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2003 for rape.