Emotional prison officer recalls breaking rules for inmate who killed herself

Katie Allan took her own life in a young offenders institution aged 21.

Emotional prison officer recalls breaking rules for inmate who killed herself PA Media

A prison officer became emotional as she recalled breaking regulations by giving bandanas to an inmate with alopecia who later killed herself.

Katie Allan, 21, was found dead in her cell on July 4, 2018 at Polmont young offenders institution.

A fatal accident inquiry (FAI) at Falkirk Sheriff Court is examining the circumstances of her death and that of William Brown, 16, also known as William Lindsay, who took his own life there four months later.

Ms Allan told family she felt “like a piece of shit” after seeing a GP about alopecia and described Dr Fiona Collier, a GP and dermatologist who visited every eight weeks, as “a cow”, the inquiry heard.

An appointment scheduled for March 19 went ahead on May 4, when Ms Allan was told she would be given cream rather than steroid injections, which she had been given privately.

Dr Fiona Collier told Falkirk Sheriff Court she did not believe stress triggered alopecia (Andrew Milligan/PA).

Dr Collier told the inquiry: “There’s no clear evidence recurrence can be triggered by stress.”

She also said medical files could not be shared electronically.

She said: “I don’t remember her saying anything to indicate she was upset, I don’t remember her arguing about it. I think I would have documented it if she had been very upset.”

An adverse event report issued after Ms Allan’s death noted: “The opinion of the family is this autoimmune condition was viewed as a matter of vanity.

“KA told her mother she was seen by a GP with a special interest in dermatology. She was upset at the treatment she received.”

Prison officer Jennifer Wilson, 52, was described as “lovely” by Ms Allan during a family phone call, the inquiry heard.

Mrs Wilson, who is married to fellow prison officer Scott Wilson, admitted breaking SPS protocols to bring her bandanas to hide baldness, and told the court: “It was the right thing to do.

“She was losing her hair quite rapidly. It was quite quickly.

“She was struggling coming up to the visit room. I always felt she was a bit apprehensive coming in with the young lads.

“It’s got to knock her self confidence, she’s a young girl, very pretty, losing her hair. I gave some bandanas to my husband for her.

“I assumed it was getting worse because of where she was and because of her circumstance.”

Giving evidence, Mrs Wilson said she did not complete a concern form as she “believed it was getting dealt with” and she did not see signs of self-harm.

She said: “At the time, I believe the hall staff and the health centre were well aware of Katie’s condition and I believed it was getting dealt with.”

When asked to explain her actions for breaking protocol, Mrs Wilson said: “I made the choice, I brought two in.

Linda and Stuart Allan, the parents of Katie Allan, who took her own life at Polmont Young Offenders Institution (Andrew Milligan/PA).

“She had one already. I didn’t go through the proper channels, I just brought them in. She wore them every day and would give me a wee wink on the way past.”

When asked about bullying or “difficulties with staff”, Mrs Wilson said: “She never mentioned anything like that. I would have raised concerns if she had told me she was getting any problems from anyone.”

She said learning of Ms Allan’s death was “probably the most upset I have ever seen Scott, it’s terrible”.

Glasgow University chaplain Stuart MacQuarrie, who has since died, said in a statement that on his second visit to Ms Allan she disclosed she was being bullied and was scared of turning 21 in prison.

His evidence said: “Now she was 21 she was worried she could be moved upstairs at any time.

“Katie was telling me the bullying and abuse was continuing. There were two prisoners who would scream at her and threaten her, calling her a ‘baldy bastard’ and trying to make her an outcast.

“Most of the time Katie appeared OK. The abuse and bullying was always mentioned, and it did make her unhappy. She didn’t want to report it, she was of the opinion it would make it more difficult.”

His statement added: “She didn’t appear to me to be a risk of suicide. I believe Katie wasn’t managed at all during her time at Polmont and was just part of the process.”

Earlier on Thursday, mental health nurse Jo Brogan told the inquiry she was not aware of “intel” regarding reports of bullying as only Scottish Prison Service (SPS) staff could access it.

She said Ms Allan was referred to her “informally” by a prison officer.

The witness told the inquiry: “Intel reports were for SPS staff only, we wouldn’t know what they were in for or how long the sentence was, or if they were on remand.”

Antidepressants would not have been considered for issues with Ms Allan’s “mental wellbeing”, due to her relatively short sentence, the inquiry was told.

She said she had no concerns about Ms Allan in terms of self-harm, adding: “I think Katie was an absolute delight, I think she was very open, she was very resilient, she was very capable, she was very engaging with the process, she listened, she discussed, she shared, in particular to her alopecia.

“I think she tried to contain her emotions and her emotional responses.”

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