Arsonist who was serving life sentence at HMP Nottingham died of natural causes

A general view of The Council House in Old Market Square, Nottingham city centre.
-Credit: (Image: Joseph Raynor/ Nottingham Post)

A Nottingham Prison inmate's death has been ruled as natural by a jury following a three-day inquest. Charleston John Cullen died aged 54 at Nottingham City Hospital on May 25, 2022, while he was a prisoner at HMP Nottingham, serving a life sentence for arson.

An inquest hearing held on Wednesday morning (June 26) at Nottingham Council House heard how Cullen was convicted of arson in 2004 at Sheffield Crown Court. During his time in prison, Cullen was released in 2016 subject to licence conditions but was recalled days later.

He remained in prison until September 2019, when he was released a second time. He was recalled again, however, due to a breach of his conditions.

A jury formed of 10 members returned a natural death conclusion, with Cullen's cause of death recorded as ischaemic heart disease. Coroner Simon Burge told the jury an inquest still had to be held despite Cullen's obvious cause of death as "the law requires an inquest for any death in custody, usually in front of a jury".

Coroner Burge went on to explain in his summary of the evidence that there was no evidence to suggest third-party involvement in the death and no evidence of any serious long-term injury as a result of a fall Cullen had taken recently. There was also no evidence of negligence from the prison or to suggest that Cullen brought about his own death.

This left the jury with "only one possible conclusion" for Cullen's "sudden" death - natural causes. Mr Burge added: "There were no learning points of any significance arising from this case. He had significant underlying conditions affecting his health."

The inquest was previously told on Monday, June 24, that Cullen had heart issues, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, and Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, which, according to the NHS, is a "relatively common heart condition that causes the heart to beat abnormally fast for periods of time". The jurors were told that "nothing was making it obvious that he would have an imminent deterioration" at the time of a medical appointment Cullen received in prison.

No family or friends were present at the inquest.