Inquest into prisoner's death begins

Last updated 16:10 21/05/2014

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A convicted murderer died in his prison cell after hearing he would spend at least the next 10 years in prison, an inquest has heard.

Tony Worrell, 51, who was self-administering prescription medication while in jail, died in March 2011 while serving a life sentence at Paremoremo for murder.

A mandatory coroner's inquest into his death began in the Auckland District Court today.

The exact method of death was suppressed by coroner Morag McDowell, but she said it was related to the self-administration of prescription drugs.

Senior Constable Paul Herman said Worrell had requested extra medication when he did not need it. The box in which it was held was not checked by Corrections staff.

The next day, he was found unresponsive on the floor of his cell.

Police found a note and journal, the contents of which were suppressed by the coroner.

Days before, Worrell had learnt of a Court of Appeal decision that cut his minimum period of imprisonment from 14 years to 12.

His convictions were not overturned by the court, but the Corrections officer who managed the unit said "he didn't appear upset".

"His response was almost like it was a normal event," the staff member, whose name is suppressed, said.

"If I'd had concerns I would have put him in the at-risk unit."

Worrell was jailed after being found guilty at trial of the murder of Katie Powles, 26, when he deliberately crashed into her Mazda in Linwood Rd, South Auckland, in June 2008.

He was also found guilty of causing grievous bodily harm to another motorist and on two counts of attempted intentional damage.

On the night of the murder, Worrell left his house heavily intoxicated after an argument with his wife, Lynette.

He phoned her about 6pm, saying he was looking for a big truck.

He later drove directly at four cars, crossing the centre-line each time.

Brett Robinson, 42, had been driving his two young children home from football practice when Worrell hit him.

Robinson suffered serious injuries to his legs and pelvis.

Worrell then smashed into Powles' car, creating "a scene of complete carnage", the trial in the High Court in Auckland heard.

The newlywed woman died in the wreckage.

Emergency services staff found empty beer bottles in Worrell's vehicle and a full can propped between his legs.

The inquest is expected to last two days.

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