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Cynthia Beamond murder accused Leo Barnes 'said he wanted to die before being found dead in his cell'

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The man accused of bludgeoning a Black Country pensioner to death with a saucepan had made a noose just weeks before being found dead in his cell, an inquest heard.

Leo Barnes was also heard telling agency cell staff at Wolverhampton Crown Court that he wanted to end his life, the hearing was told.

Barnes was accused of battering 80-year-old grandmother Cynthia Beamond to death at her Halesowen home before killing another pensioner, Philip Silverstone, in London the next day.

The 33-year-old had been on trial over the deaths at Wolverhampton Crown Court and had given evidence days before being found dead.

Since his death in January 2015, questions have been raised about how he was managed at the Redditch prison where he was being held during the trial.

Coroner Geraint Williams told the jury on the first day of the inquest in Stourport that Barnes had been on suicide watch on three separate occasions since he was remanded in custody over the deaths in June 2014.

Mr Williams said there were claims Barnes had been overheard telling agency cell staff at the crown court that he wanted to end his life and that his barrister representing him during the trial said he had told people he wanted to kill himself.

However, prison bosses claim this was not communicated to them.

A noose was also found in Barnes' cell at HMP Hewell on December 22, 2014 and the prisoner indicated he wanted to harm himself, Mr Williams said.

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Barnes was found dead on the morning of Sunday, January 25, 2015 by prison officers.

He had given evidence at the murder trial three days earlier but complained of feeling unwell on Friday, and the case was adjourned.

David Kitchen, a mental health nurse at HMP Hewell, had examined Barnes on his arrival at the prison in November 2014 and said he could see no signs at that time to suggest he was suicidal. But Mr Williams said: "He is not going to say 'yes, I am going to kill myself' if he genuinely wants to. When someone says he has no current intention (to harm himself) how can you be sure he is telling the truth and not trying to avoid monitoring?"

Mr Kitchen replied: "I read his past history, he was relaxed, open, spontaneous, bright in mood and future-orientated."

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Matthew Davies, who was head of residence and safety at HMP Hewell at the time, spoke to Barnes after the noose was found in his cell and said he believed he was not someone who wanted to die.

His statement read to the court said: "He had made a noose but did not want to die. He stated he didn't want to die and that he wanted to go to court to prove his innocence. He informed he made a noose but that it had been taken away from him."

The inquest also heard that Barnes was found with 42 separate cuts to his arms which were likely to have been made within 24 hours of his death, suggesting he may have been self-harming.

But Claire Palmer, acting on behalf of the Ministry of Justice, said prisoners would likely have been wearing long sleeves as it was winter and there would not necessarily have been someone checking his arms.

Barnes, from Balsall Heath, Birmingham, had denied two counts of murder. Before his death, the court heard how Barnes knew Mrs Beamond growing up as she lived on the same road as his grandparents.

He was alleged to have killed her in her home in Juliet Road.

The pensioner was found dead in her garage after her family grew concerned that they could not contact her and reported her missing.

He was then said to have travelled to London and killed Mr Silverstone, who was 67 and a former next-door neighbour.

Following Barnes' death, Mrs Beamond's daughter Beverley Hadley said: "We are devastated the man we believe is responsible for the brutal murder of my beloved mum is not going to face justice for this horrendous crime."

The inquest continues.

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