The devastated mother of an inmate who died by suicide has spoken of her deep regret in reporting her son to the police in the hope it would help him beat his drug addiction.
Isabel Galea said there were clear signs that Colin, 30, was at risk of suicide, bearing physical marks on his arms and having been treated for an overdose.
“I trusted them with my son and they gave him back to me dead,” she said ahead of his funeral held on Friday.
Opening up to Times of Malta, Galea said reporting her son to the police was a hopeful option at the time as he struggled with his drug problem.
“I was always hesitant to report him because it is never a pleasant thing to turn in your own son to the police,” she said.
“But I had no other choice. I did it hoping it would help him beat his addiction.
“I thought they would take care of him.”
However, now, she is experiencing tremendous regret.
Galea died at Mater Dei Hospital on August 17, eight days after he attempted suicide in his cell. He is the 13th inmate to die at the Corradino Correctional Facility in three years.
“Two years ago, he was in prison. Even then he used to tell me he had suicidal thoughts,” the mother recalled.
“I remember notifying the prison authorities but they did not help. I remember calling Peppi Azzopardi to seek help from him.”
When her son arrived in prison this time round, she said, he had clear marks of self-harm on his arm and the prison authorities should have known he could be suicidal.
“When Colin found out that he was going back to prison he started to harm himself on the arm. Then he overdosed and was taken to hospital in an ambulance,” she continues.
“So, when he entered prison, the authorities there should have seen the clear marks of self-harm on his arm and they should have seen the hospital records saying he had just overdosed.
“Why didn’t they take care of him? How did they let him kill himself?”
She spoke of her close relationship with her son.
“I am so hurt. I just wanted to help him. Colin loved me dearly and whenever he managed to stop taking drugs, he was constantly asking me how I feel. He wanted to see me happy,” she recalled.
“He spent the first days of his sentence at the forensic unit in Mount Carmel, and that was helpful, but then he was transferred to Corradino. I still don’t know why.”
Galea fears her son’s death will not change anything and that his fate awaits more inmates.
“If prison remains the same, there will be more inmates who will end up like Colin and Colin would have died for nothing.”
Meanwhile, Peppi Azzopardi on Saturday posted two photos on his Facebook page, one of them showing the mother at the prison gate after her son's funeral. She lit a candle in front of a photo of her son and a message "Have a conscience. Do not allow more people to die in here. RIP Colin"
Hours after the incident, a board was tasked with reviewing suicide prevention measures at the prison and to evaluate support measures for drug dependents.
Prison authorities have said the inmate was not on suicide watch and “had never indicated threats of suicide”. They said he was being followed by professionals and the last specialist psychiatric assessment was carried out four days before the incident, with no psychiatric concern elicited.
In an interview with Times of Malta, cellmate Anthony Borg recalled how he had found Colin unconscious in their cell. A few days before they were transferred to the division where he died Colin had pleaded with warders not to take him there but they would not listen, he claimed.
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