09:52, August 22 169 0 theguardian.com

2017-08-22 09:52:03
Man who murdered PC Gordon Semple died by hanging, court hears

A murderer who ate part of his victim’s body and tried to dissolve the rest in acid died by hanging in his cell a few months into his life sentence, a court has heard.

Stefano Brizzi was taken off suicide watch at the high-security Belmarsh prison about a month before his death, a pre-inquest review hearing was told on Tuesday.

Dr Andrew Harris, a senior coroner, said Brizzi was found to have made a noose before he died and a note had been discovered “indicating he was thinking about death”.

In February, Brizzi was found dead in the cell he occupied alone. Two months earlier, he had been jailed for life with a minimum term of 24 years for the murder of PC Gordon Semple, who served in the Metropolitan police for 30 years.

Brizzi, who was addicted to methamphetamine, was convicted of strangling the officer to death after luring him to his London flat for sex and drugs. After the murder, he dismembered the body and, inspired by a scene in the TV series Breaking Bad, dissolved it in acid in a bath.

At Belmarsh he was placed on a care plan under a system used to help prisoners at risk of self-harm and suicide, as well as being placed on suicide watch. But the plan was ended in late December 2016 and suicide watch ceased on 4 January, Harris said.

A full inquest before a jury next year will seek to determine the “management of information found in his cell indicating he was thinking about death”, he said.

“Given the nature of [Brizzi’s] crime, we need to understand … whether he was assessed as a violent prisoner. It may relate to the fact he was in a single cell and whether he had been exposed to risk by other prisoners,” Harris told the hearing.

Brizzi was said to have given boredom as the reason for having made the noose after it was found. “It is important to understand the way that risk was assessed at the time,” Harris said.

The coroner indicated that an autopsy had given the cause of death as hanging and found “no features of significant natural disease that prevented [Brizzi] from tying knots”. It also indicated there were “no other significant injuries to imply being recently involved in an altercation”.

The toxicology report was “essentially negative”, Harris told the hearing at Southwark coroner’s court in south-east London.

The inquest will consider questions relating to how the risk of Brizzi harming himself was assessed and how his care was managed.