The family of a man who died whilst serving time in HMP Highpoint have raised concerns about the care he received in prison, an inquest heard.

Matthew Xavier, 65, was admitted to West Suffolk Hospital on December 1, 2022, having been found collapsed in his cell. He died from stage four lung cancer on December 16.

On the first day of his inquest, Suffolk Coroners' Court heard from a fellow inmate and friend of Mr Xavier.

He said on Tuesday that for the final few weeks he was at Highpoint, Mr Xavier required a wheelchair and was unable to get out of bed, with the friend bringing him each of his three meals a day.

The former inmate told the court that he didn’t feel Mr Xavier received adequate care from prison staff. He said, more than once, he had carried Mr Xavier down a set of stairs because he was too weak to walk.  

The court heard a tribute written by Mr Xavier’s son, Jade Xavier, where he described his father as his “hero” and “protector”.

Mr Xavier was born in St Lucia as one of seven children and went on to have seven children himself.

His son said that Mr Xavier made sure that his blended family all felt united and ensured close relationships between his children. He was a grandfather to 14 and enjoyed spoiling his grandchildren.

Mr Xavier loved to share his culture by cooking for his family, and loved to host them for large, family dinners.

The court heard that when Mr Xavier was transferred to Highpoint in May, he used to enjoy working out in the gym and playing badminton.

However, his health began to deteriorate over the summer. He attended an appointment with a nurse in June, complaining of a cough he had had for five days, for which he was prescribed steroids and antibiotics.

In a witness statement from Jade Xavier, he said that he felt that racial prejudice may have played a role in his father’s treatment.

He pointed to GP appointment at which his father had pointed out a lump in his neck, and grown frustrated with the clinician, who told him he was being aggressive.

Mr Xavier Junior said in his statement that he felt this was racial stereotyping of his father as an "aggressive black man".

He said that he found the fact that prison officers remained in his father’s hospital room throughout his hospital stay, even after his death, “deeply upsetting”.

“I believe we wouldn’t have been treated so badly had we been a white family,” he wrote.

Recorded notes showed that clinicians had queried whether Mr Xavier was suffering from malignancy, and that he had been given a two-week cancer referral.

East Anglian Daily Times: At the time of his death, Matthew Xavier was serving time in HMP Highpoint in Stradishall. Image: NewsquestAt the time of his death, Matthew Xavier was serving time in HMP Highpoint in Stradishall. Image: Newsquest (Image: Newsquest)

However, Dr Dan Patterson, a consultant oncologist at West Suffolk Hospital, said that by this point, it was likely too late.

Dr Patterson explained that Mr Xavier was suffering from small cell lung cancer, which is known for spreading rapidly. He said that by the time Mr Xavier had started to lose his mobility in late October, he would have been too unwell for chemotherapy.

However, he also said that it was impossible to say whether Mr Xavier’s symptoms in June were due to lung cancer. Mr Xavier also lived with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and his symptoms had been attributed to this.

Dr Patterson explained that small cell lung cancer symptoms often appear three months from treatment, and so it was possible that the cancer had not developed until September.

“That’s always the problem with lung cancer,” he told the court, adding that it was easy for clinicians to identify steps they could have taken with hindsight.

The inquest is expected to conclude on Wednesday.