Northern Ireland news

Convicted paedophile Liam Adams cancer diagnosis 'not missed or delayed' by prison authorities

Liam Adams arrives at court to answer charges of the rape and indecent assault of his daughter Aine. Picture by Hugh Russell

PRISON authorities did not miss or delay the cancer diagnosis of convicted child abuser Liam Adams, a watchdog has found after being asked by his relatives to investigate.

He died in a Belfast hospice on February 25 2019, just over three weeks after he was moved from prison to receive end of life care for terminal cancer.

The 63-year-old brother of former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams was five years into a 16-year jail term for the rape and sexual assault of his daughter, Aine Dahlstrom.

A report by the Prisoner Ombudsman Lesley Carroll, published today, follows a "thorough" investigation into "all aspects of Mr Adams's death, including any questions raised by his bereaved relatives".

It reveals he "became unwell at Maghaberry Prison in December 2018" and treated there before being transferred to a hospital where he was diagnosed with a "non-curative intra-abdominal" (pancreatic) cancer on January 24.

Surgeons found "multiple lesions through the liver" and "features suggestive of advanced pancreatic malignancy".

He was moved to a hospice on February 4.

Adams had been in prison since October 2013.

Family members first met Dr Carroll on April 9 2019 and asked if there was a connection between his illness in 2017 and the 2019 diagnosis and if the investigation into his sickness in December 2018 was "appropriate".

She was also to ask if there were missed opportunities to "detect and diagnose" his illness earlier and if the health trust and Prison Service were sufficiently "responsive" to family concerns in January 2019.

Dr Carroll said the clinical reviewer found he "received appropriate clinical care while he was in Maghaberry Prison and that appropriate investigations were conducted when he first reported feeling unwell" with "nothing to suggest that the cancer diagnosis had been missed or delayed".

The report reveals in April 2014 Adams had had to be resuscitated by prison staff after collapsing and was treated in hospital afterwards for a heart condition.

He also suffered chest pain in 2016 and in 2017 a tumour from his lung removed surgically.

During his time in the high-security prison he was on an "enhanced regime", involved "in reading, writing, literacy, numeracy and horticulture... and had regular contact with family members".

The report found "Prison Service made extensive efforts to respect Mr Adams's privacy and dignity during the period he was in hospital and the hospice".

Both the clinical reviewer and post mortem found the pancreatic cancer "was unrelated to the lung cancer (diagnosed/treated in 2017)".

He stated there was nothing to suggest his care was "mismanaged" or the cancer was "missed or delayed by the healthcare team at Maghaberry Prison", pointing out the hospital team "initially made a provisional clinical diagnosis of (inflammation of the gallbladder) or (gallstone in the common bile duct)".

The medic said "Mr Adams was probably reviewed more regularly by healthcare professionals than most people living in the community with similar symptoms/problems".


Dr Carroll said the report was written to provide "explanations and information that gives insight to the bereaved" and offered his families "condolences... on their sad loss".

It is expected that an inquest, delayed until the publication of the report, will now take place.

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