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Fatal Accident Inquiry into the Death of Philip Holmes Saffrey, Edinburgh Sheriff Court, 24th May 2011


In terms of s.6(1)(a) of the Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths Inquiry (Scotland) Act 1976, the sheriff found that Philip Holmes Saffrey (DOB 17.03.67) died at approximately 1.30 am on 15th July 2010 en route from Saughton Prison to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. In terms of s.6(1)(b), the cause of death was cocaine toxicity. No other formal determinations were made.
Philip Saffrey had been using cocaine for many years and was well experienced in the supply, transportation and importation of cocaine. On 10th July 2010 he was arrested (along with two co-accused, Luis Hidalgo and David Carpenter) and charged with the supply of high-value cocaine. The deceased and Luis Hidalgo were remanded in custody and on the evening of 14th July 2010 were sharing a cell at Saughton Prison. Despite having been comprehensively searched by various custody officers, the deceased had managed to smuggle cocaine into the cell. He ingested a fatal quantity of cocaine and, before becoming unresponsive, wrote a note indicating that he was committing suicide. The note also cleared his two co-accused of any wrongdoing. Luis Hidalgo alerted the prison authorities and an ambulance was called. However, Mr Saffrey did not regain consciousness. He was transferred to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary where he was declared dead shortly before 3 am.
The sheriff made no formal recommendations in this case. He was satisfied that the prison and custody staff acted appropriately and carried out adequate searches despite the fact that drugs were not discovered. The sheriff ruled out the likelihood of Mr Saffrey ingesting the cocaine involuntarily. On the balance of probabilities it was more likely that he committed suicide.