Former prisoner killed himself in woods

RELATIVES of a man who killed himself just days after being released from prison have questioned the level of support available to ex-prisoners.

Alan Cowell, 51, was found hanged in woodland on the corner of Elwick Road and Catcote Road, Hartlepool.

He was discovered by a dog walker on the morning of New Year’s Day.

Tests showed he had drunk some alcohol the previous night but “nothing unusual”.

But he had also taken a large amount of strong painkillers.

An inquest into Mr Cowell’s death heard that he had been released from Holme House Prison, in Stockton, after 18 months on December 13.

He had been staying at a bed and breakfast on The Front, in Seaton Carew, since his release.

Mr Cowell’s brother-in-law questioned why the same level of support services was not available to him as those when people are in prison or bail hostels.

He said at the inquest: “If a system was in place it might stop somebody else from doing this.”

Mr Cowell had shared a bottle of wine with other residents on New Year’s Eve but did not seem concerned about anything.

His father, also called Alan, was expecting him to go to his house the next morning.

The inquest heard Mr Cowell had tried to kill himself while in prison, and had a history of depression.

Hartlepool coroner Malcolm Donnelly said support outside of prison is only available if people ask for it.

He said: “Once you have gone right through to the end of the punishment system, it’s essentially a blank sheet of paper and you start from scratch.

“I’m not saying whether that’s right or wrong.

“You are identifying a potential gap, but it would take a lot of resources to fill that gap.”

Mr Donnelly ruled that Mr Cowell killed himself while the balance of his mind was disturbed.