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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 May 2007, 17:13 GMT 18:13 UK
Boy's custody death was suicide
Adam Rickwood
Adam Rickwood had a history of mental health problems
A boy found dead at a privately-run secure unit 150 miles from his home committed suicide, a jury has ruled.

Adam Rickwood, 14, became the youngest person to die in custody in Britain in modern times, in 2004.

Adam, from Burnley, Lancashire, was on remand at the Hassockfield Secure Training Unit, County Durham.

He wrote to his mother saying he would kill himself if forced to stay in the unit, the jury at Chester-le-Street Magistrates' Court heard.

Adam was found dead about a month after being sent on remand to the unit on a wounding charge, in July 2004.

He had suffered from mental health problems, drink and drug abuse and had suicidal tendencies, the court heard.

Jurors deliberated for almost a week after the month-long hearing, before ruling that he intended to take his own life.

I will probably try to kill myself and I will probably succeed this time
Adam Rickwood's letter

The last letter the teenager wrote to his mother, Carol Pounder, was read to the jury.

It said: "I need to be at home with you. I need to be at home in my own bed or my head will crack up.

"I will probably try to kill myself and I will probably succeed this time. I can't stay in here."

The jury found Hassockfield was an appropriate secure training centre for Adam.

Jurors also found that staff at the centre had acted appropriately while he was there and in the hours before his death.


The jury had heard that in the hours before his death Adam had been restrained by staff using a "nose distraction technique" in which upward pressure is placed on the nose to cause a short pain.

Mrs Pounder called for a public inquiry into children that have been restrained for non-compliance saying that she was "totally and utterly disgusted with what had happened".

Durham coroner Andrew Tweddle said he would make a number of recommendations, including about the use of restraint techniques.

He said that a review was necessary "so there can be no ambiguity in anyone's mind whatsoever - young persons, staff, management, the Youth Justice Board and indeed the government."

A spokesman for Serco, which runs the centre, said after the inquest: "This has been a very thorough investigation into the circumstances of Adam's tragic death.

"It has demonstrated that our staff do a difficult job and provided a very high standard of care when Adam was at Hassockfield.

"The coroner has made detailed recommendations, some of which we have already implemented, and we will of course look closely at the rest."

Adam Rickwood's mother on the verdict

Remand unit 'at bursting point'
03 May 07 |  Lancashire
Inmate sent mother suicide note
01 May 07 |  Lancashire
Funeral of custody death teenager
18 Aug 04 |  Lancashire

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