AN inquest jury has watched harrowing video film footage of the last hours of the life of a petty criminal found hanged in his police cell.

The court was cleared after relatives of the man, George Rudd, 30, had requested to see the close circuit television reel from October 2000, before the Middlesbrough inquest was formally opened.

The film was shown a second time for the jury and Teesside Coroner Michael Sheffield. It showed Rudd, a heroin-addicted criminal, engaging in friendly banter with charge room officers at Middlesbrough police station.

He handed in his trouser belt and shoe laces before being frisked and taken to the cells, where he was found hanged the following day.

Another sequence, shot on the day he died, saw the figures of two police officers trying in vain to resuscitate the father-of-two.

He was found hanging from the drawstring taken from the waist of his tracksuit top, which he had smuggled into his cell.

Rudd who was on licence from prison, died after learning that he was to spend longer in jail for theft than he had expected.

Custody Sergeant Christopher Dawber said he "relaxed" the visits to the peep-hole in Rudd's cell to one an hour because "he appeared to be in good spirits".

The inquest continues today.