Sick on the inside

The Monthly 

April 2018

Over the final few months of his life, 31-year-old David Wotherspoon, an inmate at Cessnock Correctional Centre in the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales, increasingly believed that prison officers were plotting to kill him: poisoning his food and sending toxic gas into his cell. To protect himself, he barely ate or slept, and armed himself with a “shiv”, a sharpened screwdriver.

In mid March 2013, after months of private torment, he asked to see the mental-health nurse at the prison’s clinic. He was tired and drawn – he’d dropped 7 kilograms – and agitated. “I’m not sick, I know I am not sick,” Wotherspoon told her, continually checking the door, watching for prison officers, worrying he would be overheard. He told her about the plot against him, and about his weapon. “Don’t be afraid, miss. I won’t be using it on you. It’ll be for one of those ones who…