Man found dead in public toilet on the day he was released from HMP Durham

HMP Durham
-Credit: (Image: Newcastle Chronicle)


A man was found dead in a public toilet on the day he was released from prison, a report into his death has confirmed.

John Burnip was found slumped in a public toilet with an empty vodka bottle beside him on December 29, 2022, following his release from HMP Durham that morning. Ambulance crews attended the scene and confirmed that the 38-year-old had passed away.

An inquest, held on April 18, 2024, concluded that Burnip's death was alcohol related.

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A Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) report published earlier this month said Burnip had a history of alcohol and substance misuse but he failed to declare it during his reception screening after being charged with assault and remanded in prison on October 8, 2022.

He was convicted on December 9, 2022, and sentenced to five months in prison but released that day due to time served while on remand. He was recalled to HMP Durham six days later because his community offender manager (COM) had concerns about where he was living, and considered his risk was not manageable in the community.

The PPO report states that on December 23, 2022, a meeting was held between probation, social services, and the housing team, during which the housing team said they were struggling to find accommodation Burnip. They told probation they would have to support Burnip to call the council on the day of his release because there may be temporary accommodation available at that point.

It was decided that a referral should be made to an Approved Premises (AP) which provides additional supervision to those who pose a high risk of harm and on December, 28, 2022 - the first working day after Christmas - Burnip's COM completed an emergency AP referral for his release the following day.

On the morning of his release, Burnip was accepted for AP accommodation with immediate effect. However, Burnip did not attend a meeting at the Durham probation office on the day of his release and was therefore unaware of his place at AP accommodation.

The PPO reports that Burnip was released from HMP Durham at around 10.50am on December 29, 2022, and was found by a member of the public in a public toilet that afternoon. The member of the public called the ambulance service who confirmed that Burnip had died. An empty vodka bottle was found next to him. The police informed probation staff at around 5.00pm.

The post-mortem report concluded that Burnip died of acute alcohol intoxication. His inquest concluded that his death was alcohol related.

The full PPO report can be found here.