Murderer stabbed fellow inmate to death with prison kitchen knife while cutting vegetables

William Tolcher stabbed a fellow inmate to death (Picture: SWNS)

A convicted murderer stabbed a fellow inmate to death while chopping vegetables in prison after being allowed access to kitchen knives, an inquest has heard.

William Tolcher was working at Dartmoor prison when he plunged a 10-inch blade into Alex Cusworth from behind, a coroner was told.

He was jailed for 33 years and told by a judge he would likely die in prison.

A jury inquest is now looking into the circumstances surrounding his death and is set to focus on how Tolcher, a highly dangerous killer with a long history of violence, was allowed to work in the prison kitchen with a large knife.

Coroner Philip Spinney opened the ten-day hearing by outlining the background of both men, including the facts around Tolcher bludgeoning his girlfriend to death in Newquay, Cornwall, 22 years ago.

He said Cusworth, sentenced to eight years in prison in May 2015, applied three months later to work in the kitchen.

The attack happened at HM Prison Dartmoor, Devon (Picture: PA)

On November 26, 2015, he was stabbed to death by Tolcher, from Cornwall, who had been in jail since 1996.

He had served time in a number of prisons and had a history of violent behaviour, which had reduced over recent years.

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He was transferred to Dartmoor in 2015.

Mr Spinney said: “On November 26, 2015, Alex and Tolcher had been working in the kitchen. Alex was preparing eggs, Tolcher was preparing vegetables using a large knife issued to him.

“Alex was stabbed in his back. Medics could not save him and he died in hospital."

Tolcher was later convicted of his murder by jury at Plymouth Crown Court. The coroner said the purpose of the inquest was to establish the facts around the killing.

Tolcher, sentenced to 33 years in jail for what was his second murder, was asked to take part but declined.

Tolcher stabbed a fellow inmate to death while cutting vegetables in a prison kitchen (Picture: SWNS)

The inquest will include an examination of the policies and procedures of Dartmoor Prison surrounding the suitability of inmates to work in kitchens at the time of the murder.

No prison staff were present when the stabbing took place, it was not witnessed by civilian staff and the jury will also be asked to consider supervision issues.

Tolcher, a former heroin addict, was jailed in 1997 for the murder of his girlfriend, Kathy Sharples, in Newquay. He was still serving his sentence when he killed Cusworth.

Cusworth's mother, Ann Edgellen, said she and her first husband had fostered Cusworth at the age of seven and subsequently adopted him.

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

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