Fear of attacker prompted prison suicide - sources

16:00, Oct 21 2009

A prisoner, who had been raped by another inmate, killed himself after learning his attacker was being brought back to the same prison, prison sources say.

The Corrections Department says an independent review into Michael Graham Maxwell's death means it cannot comment.

However, Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust manager Ken Clearwater said knowing that the convicted attacker, gang member Dean Noble, was coming back to the prison would have had a "massive effect" on Maxwell.

"It would definitely traumatise him. Even [if they were kept separate] just that Noble was within the same space would have affected him."

Maxwell's funeral was held on Tuesday in Hoon Hay.

He died in Christchurch Hospital on Friday after being found in his Christchurch Men's Prison cell on October 10.

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Maxwell was repeatedly raped in Christchurch Men's Prison in 2005, after being placed in the same cell as Noble, a violent gang member.

A prison source said Maxwell, 24, committed suicide after other inmates taunted him that Noble was being brought back to the prison.

The source said Noble had been sent to another prison following his rape conviction in May last year.

"He [Noble] was reclassified after six months of good behaviour, and returned."

Maxwell's lawyer, Shannon-Leigh Litt, said Maxwell had been in Rolleston Prison.

He was transferred back to Christchurch Men's Prison, and "he finally snapped", she said.

He feared for his safety for testifying against Noble, Litt said.

Other sources confirmed Noble was back in Christchurch Men's Prison.

Clearwater said prisoners' taunts would have been done for "entertainment".

"Even for the young fellow to come forward over the Dean Noble thing was massive," Clearwater said.

"It was so brave of him to do it within that system and he's carrying all that and all that goes with it and knowing Noble was coming back – it would have been horrible."

Litt said she was planning to sue Corrections for failing to look after Maxwell's mental wellbeing.

Maxwell's sister, Tania Maxwell, said Corrections "had failed him in every way possible".

"They should never have taken him back. He was worried about his safety because of what happened with Noble."

Tania Maxwell had not had any communication from Corrections since her brother's death.

The prison source said Michael Maxwell was in a "security block rather than an at-risk unit".

In a security block, he would have had his own clothes and the means to take his life, the source said.

The independent Prison Inspectorate was reviewing Maxwell's death.

Assistant regional manager Ian Bourke said Corrections would not comment on the case during the review and while the death was subject to a coroner's inquest.

The Press