Teenager found dead in prison cell ‘seemed like a lost soul’, says mother

A teenage inmate found dead in her cell “seemed like a lost soul” during her first time in an adult prison, her mother told an inquest.

Annelise Sanderson, 18, was sentenced in June 2020 to 52 weeks in custody after she assaulted a paramedic who went to her aid when she tried to set herself on fire at a petrol station.

Six months later, on December 22, she was found hanging at HMP Styal only weeks before she was due to be released, Cheshire Coroner’s Court heard.

A safety plan was put in place for Miss Sanderson (pictured) three days into her custodial term when she was identified as at risk of suicide or self-harm when she was observed with a ligature in her cell.

The plan was closed eight days later for Miss Sanderson, who had a “long-standing” history of suicide attempts that dated back to when she was aged nine, the court was told.

In a statement, Miss Sanderson’s mother, Angela Gray, said she was “worried” when she spoke to her in the first few days of her sentence.

She said: “She was depressed. She seemed like a lost soul.

“She said she didn’t know who she was, where she was or what she was doing there. She was scared.

“I was at the time, and remain, concerned that she went into prison at all without first receiving any proper mental health care treatment.

“It seems obvious to me that she was really unwell and I cannot see any other explanation for what she did, in particular at the petrol station.”

Miss Sanderson, who grew up in Runcorn, was looking forward to coming home before Christmas but on December 11 had four weeks added to her sentence for an additional matter, she said.

Ms Gray also stated she had raised a number of concerns about her daughter’s mental health to the closed prison.

She said her daughter was also severely affected by an ongoing family issue.

Miss Sanderson appeared at Wigan Magistrates’ Court after she was arrested on June 25 for assaulting an emergency worker.

She was on licence at the time after she was released from Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre earlier that year, the court heard.

Miss Sanderson, who also had alcohol and drug issues, was recorded as displaying “bizarre behaviour” when she arrived on June 26 at HMP Styal where Covid-19 restrictions were in place.

An ACCT (Assessment, Care in Custody and Teamwork) plan was put in place for Miss Sanderson on June 29 but she was said to have become “more settled” as staff got to know her and it was closed on July 7.

The inquest was told that a patient monitored by such a plan could be constantly supervised if the risk of suicide and self-harm was “very high”.

Less intrusive observations and interactions with inmates would take place if the risk was “high” and the plan could be closed once the risk was “significantly reduced”.

Mental health nurse Daisy Ollerenshaw told the inquest she carried out a “brief” face-to-face assessment with Miss Sanderson on June 27 who informed her the petrol station incident was not an attempt on her life.

Giving evidence, fellow mental health nurse Lauren Shaughnessy said Miss Sanderson “engaged well” in a meeting on December 17 and was in a “humorous manner”.

Miss Sanderson spoke about her release date postponement and said “it is what it is and I just have to get on with it,” the court heard.

Area Coroner for Cheshire, Victoria Davies, asked Ms Shaughnessy: “Were you surprised or shocked when you heard the news?”

Ms Shaughnessy replied: “Very”.

The hearing in Warrington is listed for five days.

The inquest jury heard from former Styal cellmate Keanna Hurst that Miss Sanderson became upset on December 21 following a phone call.

Ms Hurst said: “She said her partner had been screaming at her. She had been blaming her for a downturn in her mental health.

“I assured her that (her girlfriend’s) mental health was not her fault.”

The pair watched television soaps and Miss Sanderson “seemed back to herself and was acting the fool as she normally did”, stated Ms Hurst.

She said she was awoken in their cell early the following morning when prison officers stormed in.

Ms Hurst said: “I don’t know what caused her to do this but she had certainly not mentioned thoughts about suicide before.”

Another former inmate, Kerry Burgin, stated to the hearing that Miss Sanderson was the “life and soul” of the prison block.

She said: “Everybody seemed to like and love her. Nobody had a bad word to say about her.”

Ms Burgin said she too was aware Miss Sanderson had a phone row with her girlfriend but later on December 21 asked her to practice a dance routine they were due to perform on Boxing Day.

She went on: “It has completely shocked me. She always appeared to be a happy-go-lucky-type person.”

The inquest resumes on Tuesday.

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