Gardaí yet to quiz inmates after fatal stabbing

It could be several days before gardaí question an inmate about the fatal stabbing of another prisoner in Cork Prison at the weekend.

Gardaí continued gathering evidence yesterday as Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said no level of violence can be tolerated in our prison system.

“We work all the time to make sure that what happens in our prisons ensures the safety of prison officers and prisoners,” she said.

“This type of incident is rare but we want to prevent anything like this happening in so far as we absolutely can.”

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Graham Johnson, 41, a father of three from Bandon in Co Cork, died from a single stab wound to the chest following a row over access to a remote control for a TV set in the prison’s kitchen just before 5pm on Saturday.

The suspect, a heroin addict in his early 30s who is on remand for violent robbery and who served time for a previous knife assault, and who was cleared to work in the kitchen despite his history of knife crime, remains in isolation following the fatal assault on Saturday.

Detectives are collecting statements from prisoners who witnessed the assault, examining CCTV footage from inside the prison, and are awaiting the results of forensic tests on a knife which was recovered from the kitchen shortly after the stabbing.

Once gardaí are ready, they will apply to a district court judge for a Section 42 warrant to let them arrest anyone in prison for questioning about any offence.

Mr Johnson was jailed in 2011 for five years, with one suspended, after pleading guilty to robbery and larceny, and was due for release this time next year.

He was getting help in prison for his chronic gambling addiction and was described by prison sources as a model inmate.

He was one of up to nine prisoners on an enhanced regime in the prison who were working in the kitchen at the time of the attack.

His remains have yet to be released to his family.

Ms Fitzgerald said her department was working with the Prison Officers Association (POA) to ensure prison officers have stab vests when they need them.

“We’ve already purchased approximately 160 stab vests for prison officers and that will be kept under review,” she said.

However, the POA, which previously expressed concerns about rising levels of knife violence in the prison system, said the response was “woefully inadequate” and it called for a face-to-face meeting with the director general of the prison service.

Mayor of Cork County Alan Coleman said people in Bandon were rallying to support Mr Johnson’s family.

“He had gotten himself into a bit of trouble but had straightened himself out and was a model prisoner,” said Mr Coleman.

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