Camera cover ‘missed’

TROUBLED: David William Wotherspoon died in April, 2013, after being found unconscious in a “safe cell” at Cessnock Correctional Centre. Picture: Supplied
Nanjing Night Net

A CORRECTIONAL officer who was on her first shift monitoring the cameras in a mental health unit failed to notice an Indigenous inmate had partially covered his camera until moments before he was found unconscious, Newcastle Coroner’s Court has heard.

David William Wotherspoon, 31, had been trying to cover a camera in his “safe cell” at Cessnock Correctional Centre with wet toilet paper from about 3.06pm on April 5, 2013.

He failed a number of times, the toilet paper sliding off onto the ground, before he managed to partially cover the camera looking into his cell about 3.15pm.

He could still be seen moving around on the cameras up until 3.20pm.

But by the time two correctional officers went to deliver his meal at about 3.35pm he was unconscious, a ligature tied tightly around his neck.

Correctional officer Jennifer Reynolds told a coronial inquest into Mr Wotherspoon’s death on Wednesday that she wasn’t exactly sure why she missed the camera being partially covered up, despite noticing a number of Mr Wotherspoon’s earlier unsuccessful attempts.

“I couldn’t honestly answer that,” she said.

“It would have been because I was busy, there were alarms and phone calls coming in.”

Corrective Services Investigation Unit Detective Inspector Garry James had previously toldthe inquest the role of monitoring officer at the jail was too onerousfor one person.

“I noted there were 64 monitors across three TV screens,” Detective James said.

“One operator monitoring those three TVs, she’s got to handle the alarm system, the internal intercom, outside phone calls coming in.

“It is a huge task.”

Mr James said, in his opinion, it would have been “hard to even identify that wet toilet paper had been thrown on the monitor” in Mr Wotherspoon’scell, saying the partial covering wouldn’t stand out among all the other screens.

”I recommended that it needed two people to do that job,” he said.

“One watching the screen, the other one to be handling the phones and the alarms.

“There is now two people in the monitoring room since that day.”

Earlier, senior correctional officer Dave Harrower told the inquest he had spoken with Mr Wotherspoon only minutes before he was found unconscious.

“He said “Dave, can I have a shower?” Mr Harrower said.

Mr Harrower said by the time he returned to Mr Wotherspoon’s cell only a few minutes later the 31-year-oldwas unconscious.

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