Inquest told of staff's fears for homeless man


Staff at Wheatfield Prison expressed concern about the mental health of a homeless man a week before he was given temporary release, an inquest into his death has heard.

Alan Hempenstall, from Ballymun, Dublin, but homeless since 2005, died of an apparent methadone overdose on March 28th, 2011, just a few weeks after his temporary release.

His sister Donna O’Connor, who is being represented by the Irish Human Rights Commission at the inquest, said she had been increasingly concerned about his welfare in early 2011.

Her brother “went into himself” and refused to let her visit him in prison. She said she rang the prison and was assured doctors were looking after him and “not to worry, he would be helped”. She understood he would be in prison until the end of April but then got a call from gardaí to say he was dead.

Nurse officer Dawn Canavan said Mr Hempenstall was committed to Wheatfield on February 25th, 2011, in a “very vague” state. He failed to disclose a history of depression which was recorded on his medical notes, and for this reason she put him under special observation.

On March 1st, a prison officer noted concern about his mood and behaviour. He was referred to a psychiatrist.

The inquest heard he was granted temporary release on March 9th, and due to report back on April 30th.

The inquest continues.