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Murderer hacked inmate to death with vegetable knife from prison kitchen

3 min read

A convicted murderer, with a history of violence, hacked a fellow prisoner to death after he was given access to knives while working in the prison kitchen.

William Tolcher, who was jailed in 1997 for the murder of his girlfriend, Kathy Sharples, used a 10-inch blade he was cutting vegetables with to stab Alex Cusworth, 37, in the back.

The victim was rushed to hospital but died at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth on November 26, 2015 after the attack at HMP Dartmoor.

A jury inquest opened on Tuesday to look into the wider circumstances of Alex Cusworth's death which his adoptive mother described as a "senseless killing" that left her heartbroken.

The hearing will look at why a violent and dangerous killer was given access to knives and examine issues such as the policies and procedures of Dartmoor Prison surrounding the suitability of prisoners for kitchen work.

No prison staff were present when the stabbing took place and it was not witnessed by civilian staff.

Tolcher, from Cornwall, was jailed for killing his girlfriend in Newquay in 1996 and was transferred to Dartmoor in September 2015.

Coroner Philip Spinney told the jury that Alex Cusworth, originally from Stafford, moved to Devon in 2011 and was jailed for eight years in 2015.

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His mother, Ann Edgellen, told a previous hearing in May 2019 that her son was "happy" when he got a job in the kitchen but it would ultimately end in his death after working there for two months.

The 2019 hearing was adjourned to broaden the scope of the inquest to also include Tolcher's mental health issues and a new jury was sworn in on Tuesday.

Tolcher, a former heroin addict, was jailed for 33 years and told by a judge he would likely die in prison – he is currently based at Broadmoor.

Ann Edgellen and her first husband had fostered Cusworth at the age of seven and subsequently adopted him.

The last time she spoke to him was four days before he was killed. Her car had broken down on the way to see him but he had told her: "Don't worry mum, it's not your fault."

She said: "He seemed so happy. He'd got a job in the kitchen and started to take education."

Ann said her life changed forever when she received a phone call from the prison telling her what had happened. His dreams of having a future were crushed, she said.

"I had lost a young man I had fought to help for the last 28 years. My heart aches in pain."

The hearing continues.

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