A MOTHER has paid tribute to her son who died in a prison cell after taking the “zombie” drug spice, saying he had been let down by the system since he was a child.

Joshua Scholick, 26, of Peterlee, was found dead in his bunkbed while on remand in HMP Durham – just weeks before he was expecting to be released, a jury at Crook Coroner’s Court was told.

Madonna Tempest, spoke after a jury ruled yesterday her son had died by misadventure on September 29, 2018, from the combined effects of prescription drugs and the synthetic cannabinoid known as spice.

She said said: “Josh was a happy little boy always full of mischief. He was an all-rounder in sport and excelled in football.

“At the age of nine he was scouted by both Newcastle and Sunderland football teams. Josh had several demons and I constantly asked the GPs at his school for support around his anger issues, but to no avail. I took it upon myself to take him to anger management, which unfortunately did not help. As Josh grew so did his demons.”

Mr Scholick, who was treated by mental health services for a borderline personality disorder, also suffered from PTSD after a hammer attack to his skull left with brain damage.

Miss Tempest said: “He had severe anxiety, depression, paranoid episodes and psychosis which left him a vulnerable adult. He was much-loved by all of his family.

“I believe that all through of his life services have let him down and robbed him of his liberty. He is sorely missed by everyone who knew him.

“He also had a caring side he would give his last penny to anyone whose need was greater than his.”

Miss Tempest praised the support she had got from prison staff, particularly wing manager Liam Seed.

She said: “I was touched to hear Luke was well-liked and highly regarded by both prison staff and fellow inmates on his wing.

“We were told the 200 inmates on his wing were so devastated, the use of drugs dropped dramatically in the the immediate aftermath of his death. I feel it is a small positive.”

She added: “I don’t put the fault on the prison. There is not enough funding for it or for mental health services. Because 99 per cent of prisoners if they don’t have mental health problems when they go in they have them when they come out.”

On admission to HMP Durham in May 2018, Mr Scholick tested positive for opioid cannabinoids and Benzodiazepine. He was referred to the mental health team, but declined to engage, the jury was told.

A care document was opened in June 2018 after he fashioned a ligature and told staff he “had enough”, but later said he no thoughts of suicide or self-harm.

Home Office pathologist Dr Jennifer Bolton said a toxicological report found relatively low levels of valium and pregabalin, as well as the breakdown product of spice. While the side effects of spice were more likely to be fatal, his death was ascribed to a combination of all the drugs.

HMP Durham’s head of residence, Mark Harris, told the jury Mr Scholick’s death happened at a time the prison system was being devastated by effects of spice – then “completely new” to prison officers.

New measures, including the netting off communal areas to prevent drugs being thrown in from outside and a full body scanner to detect anything secreted internally, had dramatically reduced volume of drugs coming into system, he added.