Belmarsh under investigation after prisoner found dead

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Belmarsh under investigation after prisoner found dead

A prisoner on remand was found dead in his cell at HMP Belmarsh. Liridon Saliuka, 29, was the third prisoner to have died at the high-security prison within the past year. The tragedy followed a dispute over whether he should have been classified as disabled.

Saliuka was found unresponsive in his cell in the early evening of January 2, 2020. The Prisons and Ombudsman is currently investigating the death with the authorities treating it as self-inflicted. His family disagree with this assessment and are calling for a thorough investigation whilst also condemning the delays to Saliuka’s postmortem.

The 29-year-old, from Harrow in North-West London, was arrested last summer in connection with a fatal shooting at a club in east London. He was charged with murder and placed in custody at HMP Belmarsh awaiting trial. Saliuka always denied any involvement. His sister, Dita Saliuka, told the Guardian that her brother was determined to prove his innocence. She said: ‘He was on remand. Now my brother will never be able to clear his name in court.’

Jan Cunliffe from the joint enterprise campaign group Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Association (JENGbA) told the Justice Gap: ‘Liridon was on remand for a joint enterprise murder he was pleading not guilty to. His family contacted JENGbA in the hopes we could support him and them during his trial. Everyone concerned felt he had a very good case and would be acquitted.’

‘It is with great sadness to hear of his death. To lose a loved one in prison is the greatest fear for all the JENGbA families. The torment that this family are now going through is overwhelming. Not only do they not know the circumstances of Liridon’s death, they feel he should never been in Belmarsh in the first place. They feel, and we agree, that if a law like joint Enterprise was not used as a dragnet to punish the innocent he would still be alive today.’
Jan Cunliffe, JENGbA

Two years ago, Saliuka was in a car crash which resulted in him undergoing extensive reconstructive surgery. This involved being given metal plates which made it difficult to walk or stand for long periods of time. According to a surgeon’s report, commissioned by his defence lawyer, he should have been considered as ‘permanently disabled’. On arrival at HMP Belmarsh, Saliuka was given a special cell with an orthopaedic mattress. More recently, and without explanation, he had been transferred to a standard cell.

His sister, Dita, said: ‘They didn’t let him make a phone call from Boxing Day until New Year’s Day when I saw him…My brother said people who committed suicide were weak and selfish. I heard from others there had been an altercation that day. He was being bullied.

I called the prison repeatedly to [to raise concerns about his disability] but no one came back to me. He was moved on New Year’s Eve, and he said he had been sleeping on the floor because the mattress was so uncomfortable.’

In a tweet, Dita also said that everyone at Belmarsh “is talking about my brother’s death due to an altercation with prison guards in his cell”.

Selen Cavcav, senior caseworker at the charity Inquest, an organisation that supports bereaved families at the coroner’s courts, said the prisoner’s death was of ‘significant concern’. ‘It is vital that it receives the upmost scrutiny. His family must be allowed to meaningfully participate in the investigation processes and establish the truth about the circumstances of his death.’

A Prison Service spokesman said: ‘HMP Belmarsh prisoner Liridon Saliuka died in custody on 2 January and our thoughts remain with his friends and family. As with all deaths in custody, there will be an independent investigation by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman.’

In a recent tweet Dita Saliuka said that an autopsy was finally confirmed for Monday with a forensic pathologist. The family were finally allowed access to the body.