A young man who told a mental health nurse he would kill himself if he went to prison later died after hanging himself in a cell.
Zach Banner, 22, gave the grim warning after police arrested him in December 2017.
He appeared in private at court on December 29 on a number of charges, including theft by housebreaking and assaulting police officers to their injury.
Mr Banner, from Easter Ross, made no plea and was sent to Porterfield Prison in Inverness to await trial.
Two days later – in the early hours of New Year’s Day – he was found hanging in his cell.
A fatal accident inquiry was ordered because his death was in custody and it was due to open yesterday.
But procurator fiscal Geoffrey Main, who was about to lead evidence into the tragedy, told Sheriff Gordon Fleetwood at Inverness Sheriff Court that Mr Banner’s suicide threat had come to light “at a very late stage” and the inquiry may not be able to commence.
He said further investigations would have to be made by himself, and the organisations to be represented at the inquiry, including Mr Banner’s family, the Scottish Prison Service, the Prison Officers Association, Police Scotland and NHS Highland.
Sheriff Fleetwood agreed that it would be helpful to the inquiry to establish what happened in response to Mr Banner’s threat after he made it in an Inverness police cell, if it was passed on and to whom.
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Mr Main told the sheriff that Mr Banner had been referred to the “Talk to Me” programme in the prison and was put on observation, but was then taken off it.
When he was found, Mr Banner was taken to Raigmore Hospital but was pronounced dead at 10am on January 3, 2018.
The post mortem established the cause of death was hanging.
Mr Main added: “There may be concerns that some of the witnesses involved would require separate representation at the inquiry.”
Alasdair Gillies, for the Prison Officers Association, said he would require to discuss the new information with one of his members. The family’s lawyer, James McNair, said he would want to have the duty nurse at the Burnett Road Police Station in Inverness and the mental health nurse interviewed.
Robert Wightman, solicitor for NHS Highland, said that the health board’s position was “that this information may not have made any difference to the final outcome”. He agreed that the nurses involved should have the opportunity to seek legal advice.
Postponing the inquiry until a further preliminary hearing on August 28, Sheriff Fleetwood apologised to the family, who had attended court on several previous occasions.
He added: “Complicated matters sometimes arise and it is unfortunate that this information came to light so late.”