The Australian-born Zygier committed suicide in December 2010 in his cell in the maximum-security Ayalon Prison. The records of the investigation into his death, initially reported by the Australian media in February due to Israeli censorship restrictions, were sealed.
According to information revealed on Thursday, the investigation confirmed the medical examiner’s findings that Zygier took his own life by hanging himself in his cell’s shower, stressing that there was no evidence of foul play. The coroner’s report also debunked rumors suggesting Zygier was heavily drugged prior to his death, stating that only trace amounts of sedatives were found in his blood and that there was no evidence of drugs or alcohol.
The investigation’s findings did, however, criticize the prison service for several failures “that may have contributed to the prisoner’s death.”
The records reveal that Zygier killed himself after a visit by his wife, and offer the following timeline:
At 11:10 a.m. on Dec. 15, 2010, Zygier’s wife and daughter entered his cell, accompanied by a prison officer.
At 12:05 p.m., the officer returned to the cell to escort the two out, and reported that he noticed that Zygier was visibly upset and had been crying.
According to the officer, Zygier asked him to pass on a note to his wife, but the officer refused and tore up the note, an act which enraged the prisoner. The officer said Zygier’s wife asked to re-enter the cell to try to calm him down, and, though unusual, the request was granted. The officer testified that after a few minutes, he escorted Zygier’s wife out of the prison cell for the second time and noticed that she too had been crying.
The testimony led authorities to believe that Zygier’s wife had delivered some sort of disturbing news, which prompted his emotional outburst and further rattled his already unstable mental condition.
According to the records, later that afternoon one of the prison guards received a phone call from Zygier’s attorney, who asked to speak with his client. The guard allowed the call which — for reasons that were not disclosed — was not documented in the prison ward’s call log.
According to the ward’s monitoring log, at 6:05 p.m., Zygier turned off the lights in his cell, turned on the television and got into bed. One minute later, at 6:06 p.m. he turned the television off. The ward’s log noted that the guards “cannot see the prisoner.” At 6:54 p.m., Zygier got up and turned the television on again. He then went into the shower, but did not come out. The log notes the guards saw “the shadows of unclear movement.”
At 8:19 p.m., a guard went into the cell to check on Zygier. “The lights went on in the cell and the lower half of Zygier’s body could be seen in the shower. He was not moving.”
The log also noted that during the afternoon the guards’ monitoring room was left empty, that one of the cameras had malfunctioned and that the guards had failed to check on Zygier regularly in the hours before his death.
The records also shed further light on the conditions of Zygier’s incarceration: He was held under an alias, in solitary confinement and his presence in the maximum-security prison was kept a secret from all but a handful of people.
The investigation found that Zygier had been under the care of a physician and a social worker, both of whom concluded he was “suffering from Level-2 mental distress” and recommended that he be looked in on every 30 minutes. According to IPS protocols on prisoner care, “Level 2” indicates that a prisoner may try to harm himself and should be closely monitored.
The same social worker also reported that Zygier had expressed suicidal thoughts and even cut his forearms, saying he did it “to try to relax.” She also reported that he told her he had been under psychiatric care in the past.
The records further revealed that a psychiatrist who examined Zygier on Nov. 14 reported that the prisoner had confessed to two past suicide attempts and that at some point he was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Zygier was examined by a prison physician on Nov. 29 who reported he was “extremely distressed and poses a danger to himself.”
“The investigation into the prisoner’s unfortunate death indicated that several IPS failures contributed to his death,” Judge Daphna Blatman, who headed the internal investigation into Prisoner X’s suicide, said in her report.
The guard who was on duty at the time of the prisoner’s death, she wrote, “was aware of the likelihood that he might try to harm himself, and the need to closely monitor him, and therefore had the obligation to do so … This suicide could have been foreseen and if [the officer] failed to foresee it, then he was allegedly negligent in his duties.”
Based on the coroner’s report, Blatman concluded that “the prisoner died as a result of asphyxia, brought about by his tightening of a noose he made out of his bed sheets.”
“This ruling does not, however, exhaust the investigation … into whether any suspects could be implicated in any possible foul play in this case.”
View original Israel Hayom publication at: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=8857