/American citizen who died in Darwin prison missing for seven years

American citizen who died in Darwin prison missing for seven years

Updated

April 09, 2019 16:33:00

The Northern Territory coroner is investigating how an American citizen came to take his own life in Darwin prison in October 2017, after illegally overstaying his visa by almost three years.

Key Points

  • Sean Collins’s American family had not heard from him since 2010
  • He had been deemed to have “severe” symptoms of depression in prison but had not been referred for treatment
  • The coroner said his “cries for help” were lost in the prison system

In his opening address, the counsel assisting the coroner Kelvin Currie told a packed courtroom that Sean Collins’s family in Portland, Oregon had not heard from him since 2010, and had even hired a private investigator to try and find him.

His family, including his two sisters, had not known Collins was in prison in Australia until they were notified of his suicide.

Collins, 32, had been a year into a maximum four-year sentence for buying trafficable quantities of MDMA, LSD and cannabis on the dark web.

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After working as a chef in Sydney and Port Douglas between November 2012 and April 2016, Collins moved to Darwin where he lived at a youth hostel prior to his arrest.

When he was arrested in September 2016, Police raided a storage unit and his hostel room, which contained multiple false European ID cards, one of which Collins falsely provided to police.

The court heard that at the time of his suicide, Collins had been severely depressed and had his employment as a cleaner at the prison terminated due to under-performance.

Four prison guards provided evidence to coroner Greg Cavanagh that inspections had been regularly conducted of the medium-security wing which housed Collins, and that any contraband would have been immediately seized.

In the immediate aftermath of Collins’s suicide, the court heard all ropes used to fasten laundry bags were seized and shortened significantly.

Cries for help lost in ‘bureaucratic jungle’

The court heard that Collins was deemed to have had “severe” symptoms of anxiety and depression when he completed mental health questionnaires, but had not been referred to the forensic mental health team for treatment.

Collins had been prescribed anti-depression drugs including Zoloft but had ceased taking them due to adverse effects.

Judge Cavanagh heard evidence from a prison social worker that Collins had been deemed ineligible for an alcohol rehabilitation program he wanted to join, because he had more than six months remaining on his sentence.

Mr Cavanagh remarked to the counsel assisting, Mr Currie, that it appeared Collins’s “cries for help” had been lost in a “bureaucratic jungle”.

The inquest continues.

Topics:

prisons-and-punishment,

death,

darwin-0800,

united-states

First posted

April 09, 2019 16:27:02