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Inquest opens into death in Westgate of sex abuser

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Inquest: Quinton Wendell "Woolly" Baxter (File photograph)

A prison officer told an inquest how he saw a convicted paedophile jump from a chair in his cell with a bedsheet wrapped around his neck.

The testimony was given at an inquest yesterday into the death of Quinton Wendell Baxter, who died at Westgate Correctional Facility on the night of July 1, 2017.

Baxter, 59, one of the finest footballers of his generation, had been jailed for 11 years a month earlier after pleading guilty to a total of 18 separate charges of sexual abuse relating to three young boys over a span of 13 years in the 1970s and 1980s.

His victims included top footballing coach brothers Andrew and David Bascome, who came forward in 2016 about their ordeal.

Andrew Bascome, then the Bermuda coach, said at the time: “He got the trust. It was just shameful.”

He later thanked the community for the wave of support and empathy.

Baxter was identified publicly as their abuser the following year, with David Bascome describing the coercion he suffered.

On the opening day of the inquest, prison officer Jonathan James told the jury that he started his shift at 8.45pm and was assigned to the maximum-security pod with a colleague.

Mr James said that his duties were to ensure that the inmates were safe and in their cells.

He said that he carried out inspections of the eight cells on two floors every 30 minutes, checking in on the inmates through large glass windows installed in the cell doors.

Mr James said that his shift was uneventful for the first few hours.

Inquest: Quinton Wendell "Woolly" Baxter (File photograph)

However, at about 11.30pm, during his fourth round of calls, he saw Baxter in his cell standing on a chair.

He said: “I was trying to process what I was seeing. Then we made eye contact. And then he jumped.”

Mr James told the court that the cells were locked at night and that prison officers were not permitted to carry keys.

He said that he ran back to the wing’s control room, raised the alarm, picked up the cell keys, and then went back to Baxter’s cell to see if he could give assistance.

“I went back to Mr Baxter’s room and unlocked his door. I then performed CPR once I had gotten him down.”

During his testimony, Mr James became visibly shaken while recounting the event and needed time to compose himself.

The jury was shown video footage taken from a security camera in the maximum-security unit. The grainy footage, without audio, showed Mr James approaching Baxter’s cell, pause, then quickly head back to the control room before returning to the cell area.

Baxter, often called “Woolly”, stood out as a stylish centre half in leading North Village Community Club to the Triple Crown of league, Friendship Trophy and FA Cup when the Pembroke side dominated the domestic game in the late 1970s. He went on to become a respected coach of the same club.

He turned himself in to police in December 2016 and confessed to several sex assaults that were decades old.

At his sentencing hearing in June 2017, he broke down in tears and apologised to his victims.

He said: “I stand here today and take full responsibility for everything that happened to them.

“Their victim impact statements really showed me how they feel.

“To Bermuda, I apologise for everything I have done.”

The inquest, before magistrate Aura Cassidy, continues.

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