Adam Wagner acted for family of 'Hatton Garden Heist’ participant Terry Perkins at inquest

The Inquest into the death of Terrence Perkins has now concluded. It took place at Southwark Coroners Court from 18 to 22 March 2019 and was held with a jury. The jury concluded that he died from natural causes, although the mechanism of how he died “remains unclear”. The jury said that Mr Perkins “suffered from several underlying health conditions all of which added to his cardiovascular risk profile” and that he “died as a result of that raised profile”. Worrying evidence emerged at the inquest which suggested that Mr Perkins’ risks were not properly managed by staff at HMP Belmarsh and if they had been his life would have been saved.

The Coroner was sufficiently concerned by the lack of a specific policy for prisoners with an implantable cardiac device that he will now be writing to the local healthcare trust asking them to review the issue and place a specific section in the policy relating to such devices.

The Coroner also said in his conclusion that it “concerned me greatly” that the wire from the ICD was cut after the death causing a potential loss of important data, and potentially leading to data about shocks received by Mr Perkins shortly prior to his death being lost. The Coroner has said he will now take this up with the Senior Coroner and investigate further.

Terrence Perkins was born on 4 April 1948.  He died on 5 February 2018, whilst in custody at HMP Belmarsh. 

Mr Perkins had a number of health issues which developed over time. These included a ventricular tachycardia on 11.06.2017, which led to admission to St Thomas’ Hospital where he had an implantable defibrillator installed.  He suffered dizziness and shortness of breath and had a number of blood transfusions as a consequence.  He also had type 2 diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease as well as other health issues. 

The family are concerned that evidence to the inquest revealed a number of failures by the prison service and healthcare to look after Mr Perkins, including that:

  • There was no written policy on how to look after patients with an implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD) installed and no individual care plan on what to do if Mr Perkins had a shock from the ICD;

  • A nurse saw Mr Perkins on 4 February 2018, the day before he died. He reported a number of concerning symptoms including a shock from the ICD for the first time in eight months, dizziness, shortness of breath, fatigue, loss of appetite and swollen feet, the latter being a common sign of heart failure. Despite this, the nurse failed urgently to refer him to the prison GP or the hospital.

  • There was a conflict of evidence between the prison nurse, who said that she told the prison staff to keep an eye on Mr Perkins overnight, and the prison staff, who denied any such request was made.

  • The prison staff said that if such a request had been made, it would have been recorded in the observations book. They said this would have led to Mr Perkins’ cell being checked 10-15 minutes earlier on the morning he died, which a professor of cardiology accepted would probably have resulted in his life being saved.

  • Not all of the prison staff were given working radios, meaning that the member of staff who found Mr Perkins unconscious on 5 February 2018 was not able to make an emergency call and had to ask for another member of staff’s radio. Despite the Prison and Probation Ombudsman recommending that all staff should have a radio, the Ministry of Justice have rejected this recommendation.

  • The ICD leads were cut during the post mortem which was a breach of the usual procedure. The result was that the device’s memory may have been damaged meaning the important evidence of what shocks Mr Perkins received may not have been available to the inquest.

Saimo Chahal QC (Hon), Partner, Bindmans LLP acts for Mrs Robinson. Adam Wagner of Doughty Street Chambers is counsel.