Nothing suspicious in prisoner's death

A sex offender who fell ill in prison and later died in hospital received appropriate care behind bars, an investigation concluded.

Charles Alfred Martin Cunningham, 68, died at Christchurch Hospital last October after a long history of health complaints.

The obese diabetes sufferer was jailed for nine years by Justice Graham Panckhurst at the High Court in Christchurch in 2005 for a string of sexual violation and indecency charges.

During his time as a minimum security prisoner at Rolleston Prison he suffered from a number of illnesses which he received treatment for, an inquest into his death heard today.

In 2008, he was hospitalised with acute abdominal pain, which flared up again in 2009 and 2011.

Last July he was taken to Christchurch Hospital by ambulance with severe abdominal pain and diagnosed with acute pancreatitis.

Cunningham was discharged a few weeks later, only to be readmitted on August 18.

He underwent surgery and intensive therapy but his condition continued to deteriorate, the inquest heard.

After life support was discontinued, Cunningham died in the presence of his family in the hospital's ICU on October 24, last year.

Senior constable Paul Hughes told the inquest police were satisfied there was no criminal liability or suspicious circumstances surrounding the death.

Department of Corrections inspector Trevor Longmuir came to the same conclusions.

Cunningham had received "appropriate" health support at Rolleston Prison, he found.

Coroner Richard McElrea said he will issue written findings in coming weeks.

"I'm satisfied this was a natural death incidental to Mr Cunningham being in prison and I accept the opinion of Mr Longmuir that the level of medical treatment and care was consistent and appropriate."

- By Kurt Bayer of APNZ

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