Murderer stabbed fellow inmate to death as he peeled eggs in prison kitchen

A convicted murderer stabbed a vulnerable fellow inmate to death as he peeled eggs in a prison kitchen, an inquest heard.

William Tolcher, now 54, was using a 10-inch knife to chop vegetables at HM Prison Dartmoor when he stabbed 37-year-old Alex Cusworth in the back.

Cusworth was serving an eight-year jail term and had been transferred to the jail in May 2015, six months before the attack.

Tolcher was jailed for life in 1996 for murdering a woman in his native Cornwall.

An inquest at Exeter's County Hall heard no one was on trial over the prison death and the jury was not there to determine criminal or civil liability.

He said the two week hearing was instead taking place to examine processes at the Devon jail.

Outlining the case, senior Devon coroner Philip Spinney said Alex was accepted to work in the jail's kitchen in September 2015.

Tolcher was transferred to Dartmoor and he too was allowed to start to work in the kitchen some days later even though he had a 'history of violent behaviour'.

The inquest heard the inmates were on an afternoon shift and there were three civilian staff in the kitchen – but no prison officers.

Mr Spinney said there was no CCTV of the murder adding: "Staff did not see or hear the incident."

He said: "Tolcher was preparing vegetables with a large kitchen knife issued to people. Alex was stabbed in the back and Tolcher was later convicted of the assault."

In May 2016 Tolcher was convicted of Alex's murder and jailed for at least 33 years.

Plymouth Crown Court was told at his trial that Tolcher used the 10inch long knife 'to settle a score over his disrespectful behaviour'.

Alex's mother Ann Edgeller, who adopted him when he was 12, wept as she spoke about his horrific upbringing.

She said he was 'a loving, caring individual who would give the last coin in his pocket without question' but had been an unwanted child.

She told the jury of his early life: "He was a little lost soul. He was the runt of a family of seven, begging for food and locked in cupboards.

"I would be there to protect him, for 28 years to fight every corner for my son."

She said he was vulnerable, exploited by his peers and scarred emotionally and mentally.

Four days before he was murdered, Mrs Edgeller was on her way to visit her son when her car broke down four miles from the jail.

Instead, she rang him and said: "He sounded so happy, so contented."

She branded his death as 'senseless' saying: "He was never given the chance to live a normal life.

"Alex, I am so sorry, so very sorry, I was not there to protect you."

The inquest is due to last two weeks.

The hearing continues.

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