A convicted murderer has died after testing positive for Covid in prison with claims he did not report his symptoms in fear of being bullied.
Trevor Ferguson, 60, was serving a minimum 17-year sentence when he died of Covid pneumonia on December 9, 2020, the Manchester Evening News reports.
However, a new report questions whether Ferguson had avoided reporting his symptoms in an attempt to avoid "bullying" from fellow prison inmates at HMP Garth.
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Staff "heard" some prisoners hid signs of Covid "so they would not be responsible for lockdown of the whole unit", said an incident report published by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO), which independently investigates complaints and deaths of people in custody.
"To avoid detection, they sent other people to collect their meals," it said.
"This is the kind of dynamic that can exist between prisoners and does not strike us as implausible."
A wing officer recorded at the time said Ferguson told her he had delayed reporting symptoms "due to peer pressure", the report went on to say.
As a result of the report, HMP Garth has introduced a new policy that sees staff conduct physical welfare checks on prisoners who don't collect their food.
"We are therefore satisfied that the prison addressed this issue promptly and make no further comment," said the PPO.
Concerns were first raised over Ferguson's health on November 25, 2020, when he developed a cough as well as experiencing sweating and shivering. He was told to self-isolate in his cell and tested positive a day later.
The PPO report revealed no care plan was put in place once the prisoner contracted Covid.
Staff on his wing completed welfare checks three times a day, but "no further clinical checks were conducted".
On November 29, Ferguson appeared short of breath and confused. He was taken to hospital but died on December 9.
Ferguson was found guilty of the murder of his ex-partner, Karen McGraw, in 2009.
The then-concrete layer from Sale in Greater Manchester stabbed the 50-year-old three times with a fish filleting knife, allegedly motivated by the fact their brief romance had come to an end.
McGraw had made previous calls to police over violence and domestic abuse, leading to criticism of police in North Wales, where the murder took place, for failing to do more to help the victim.
He denied murder, claiming the death of Ms McGraw was manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, but a jury found him guilty and he was jailed for a minimum of 17 years.
The PPO investigation found Ferguson "almost certainly" caught Covid in his prison, but criticised both HMP Garth and its healthcare provider, the NHS, in the report.
Ferguson had been identified as "high-risk" due to existing health conditions. However, his records showed no information about the advice he was given, nor any discussion of shielding, despite the prisoner having been told of the risks of Covid by the prison governor.
"There is a lack of clarity as to whether Mr Ferguson had been assessed as vulnerable to complications from Covid-19 and offered the opportunity to shield," said the report.
The report found "there was a considerable delay in both calling an ambulance and providing details of the emergency", but that didn't "affect the outcome" for Ferguson.
The Prison Service told the Manchester Evening News staff have received "'additional emergency training" after concerns that an ambulance wasn't called immediately after Ferguson was found in his cell.
A Prison Service spokesperson said: "We have implemented all of the Ombudsman's recommendations and staff at HMP Garth have received additional emergency training."
The Daily Star has contacted the NHS for comment.
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