Honiton murder-accused’s death was suicide, inquest hears

PUBLISHED: 19:00 12 March 2018

County Hall. Ref exe 04-17 5942. Picture: Terry Ife

County Hall. Ref exe 04-17 5942. Picture: Terry Ife

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A Honiton man awaiting trial for murdering his elderly partner hanged himself in his prison cell, an inquest heard.

Charles Robert Broom, 66, was found dead in his cell at Exeter HMP in June 2016, three weeks after he pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of 71-year-old Hilda Oakfield on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

Ms Oakfield, who was also from Honiton, was found in a 4x4 in a field near Fenny Bridges on December 2, 2015.

An inquest held at Devon County Hall in Exeter on Monday (January 12) heard Mr Broom, of Millhead Road, was found dead in his cell on the morning of June 21, 2016, after a prison officer noticed his observation window was obscured.

After receiving no response to their banging and shouting, officers forced entry into Mr Broom’s cell, which was ‘barricaded’ by a mattress.

Mr Broom was last seen in CCTV evidence in which he was seen going to the toilet shortly after 11pm, before returning to his cell.

The footage showed no-one entering or leaving Mr Broom’s cell, where his body was discovered the next day.

Further evidence heard that while residing in prison, Mr Broom rarely approached staff, but a meeting was held between him and a prison officer after another inmate noticed he was feeling down.

In the meeting, held around a week before his death, Mr Broom told the officer it was ‘just one of those days’.

The officer asked Mr Broom if he was going ‘to do anything silly’, to which he replied ‘no’.

A pathologist’s report found Mr Broom’s death was in keeping with neck pressure from ligature, and there was no evidence of alcohol or drug abuse in his body when examined.

A jury returned a verdict of suicide.

Mr Broom’s attending family members were praised by assistant coroner for the County of Devon Lydia Brown for their ‘unwavering’ support while he was in prison.

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