Coroner praises fraudster's jail care

AARON LEAMAN
Last updated 05:00 31/07/2013

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A morbidly obese fraudster who died following a short stint in jail received a high standard of care, with prison medical staff just metres from his cell, a coroner has ruled.

Max Heslehurst, 57, known as "Fat Max", died last August while in custody.

Heslehurst, who tipped the scales at 200kg, was found unresponsive in a cell at Waikeria Prison on August 5 and transferred to Waikato Hospital, where he died three days later of congestive heart failure.

At a coroner's inquest this month, Heslehurst's family argued the convicted fraudster should never had been held in custody, citing his serious health problems.

Before his arrest, Heslehurst spent two weeks in Waikato Hospital with heart complaints.

On his release from hospital, he was arrested by police on a parole recall warrant and taken to Hamilton District Court and then Waikeria Prison.

Heslehurst was facing fraud charges for allegedly fleecing $100,000 from hapless victims - the latest episode in a criminal career that stretched back 26 years.

Heslehurst had tried to argue he was too fat for jail but, in his written findings, coroner Peter Ryan said Heslehurst received "appropriate and adequate medical care" in jail.

Medical staff had kept a close and regular watch on Heslehurst's condition and responded in a timely manner when he was found lying unresponsive in a foetal position.

"Their clinical response was of a high standard, and Max was appropriately transported to Waikato Hospital at the earliest opportunity," Mr Ryan said.

The coroner accepted evidence from Waikato District Health Board consultant cardiologist Clyde Wade that Heslehurst was suitable for discharge and his condition had stabilised before his arrest.

Heslehurst's death five days later was within the realms of possibility, the heart specialist said.

The coroner said Heslehurst's death was not compromised by his prison stint.

"In particular, I note the evidence that Max would have easier access to primary health care at Waikeria Prison than he would have in his own home due to the health centre being only metres away from his prison cell," Mr Ryan said.

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- Waikato Times

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