A St. John’s man who died while incarcerated at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary late last year suffered from a bacterial infection that ravaged his body and shut down his organs, says his mother.
Cindy Flynn says preliminary findings of chief medical examiner point to son’s ‘horrific’ condition
Ariana Kelland · CBC News
· Posted: Feb 12, 2024 4:30 AM EST | Last Updated: February 12
Cindy Flynn, pictured at her property in Little Port Harmon, is seeking answers about the timeline leading up to her son’s death. (Colleen Connors/CBC)A St. John’s man who died while incarcerated at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary late last year suffered from a bacterial infection that ravaged his body and shut down his organs, says his mother.
The painful details of 35-year-old Seamus Flynn’s final hours have left troubling questions for Cindy Flynn, who is seeking accountability.
She wants to know who ultimately made the decision not to send her son to hospital sooner.
“Seamus died a horrific death,” Cindy Flynn said in a recent interview at her home on Newfoundland’s west coast.
Flynn said Dr. Nash Denic, the province’s chief medical examiner, provided details on her son’s medical condition by phone last month. The autopsy report hasn’t been finalized, she said.
When contacted by CBC News, the chief medical examiner’s office wrote that it “cannot comment on the cause and manner of death at this time,” citing the ongoing investigation.
Seamus Flynn died in the early morning hours of Dec. 2.
Cindy Flynn said Denic told her that Seamus had viral influenza which turned into a bacterial infection. He was also suffering from severe pneumonia and became septic.
The Department of Justice has described it as a “sudden death” that occurred after Seamus Flynn was taken to hospital.
Cindy Flynn said she is plagued with questions about the last moments of her son’s life.
“So you torture yourself with those questions … did he want his mom?”
Old framed photos of Seamus Flynn sit on a desk in Cindy Flynn’s home. (Colleen Connors/CBC)Cindy Flynn had dreaded the call for years — a fear shared by many whose families have been eclipsed by addiction.
She describes her son as a beautiful baby who grew into a funny, loving teenager. Addiction, she said, took hold in his late teens. She had been estranged from him for the last five years of his life.
“You don’t want that phone call because as long as the phone call stays away, there’s hope,” Flynn said.
That call came 10 hours after he died, she said, from a family member.
She said the effort of piecing together how her son became so seriously ill before his death has been a challenge from the start.
WATCH | Cindy Flynn wants to know why her son wasn’t taken to hospital before it was too late:
A grieving mother is left with serious questions over son’s death in prisonCindy Flynn, whose son Seamus died in Her Majesty’s Penitentiary, says she has learned the cause of her son’s death. She says the results have raised serious accountability questions that prison officials have yet to answer.
Flynn said she wasn’t notified or contacted by officials at either the Department of Justice, which oversees the administration of correctional services, or the penitentiary itself.
The department declined comment on specifics of the case, citing an ongoing police investigation.
“As always, the safety and wellbeing of all inmates at our facilities is a top priority,” wrote Eric Humber, a spokesperson for the justice department.
Allegations of assaultCindy Flynn said she didn’t ask Denic about evidence of broken bones or injuries her son may have sustained during an incident nearly two months before his death.
In an interview with CBC News two weeks before his death, Seamus Flynn said all but four of his teeth were knocked out during a beating from several correctional officers on Oct. 11.
Weeks before he died, Seamus Flynn made formal complaint about alleged prison assault Seamus Flynn said he was seriously hurt, didn’t receive the medical attention he needed, and was suffering from pain more than a month later.
He and another inmate filed complaints with the Office of the Citizens’ Representative.
Following the release of the CBC’s story on Flynn’s allegations, the Department of Justice said a review was completed by the head of the institution and captain of security.
“It was verified the situation was handled appropriately,” that statement said.
However, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary later said it would expand the scope of its sudden death investigation.
CBC News has requested through access-to-information laws any documents and records — including surveillance video — related to an internal review conducted by penitentiary officials into the events of Oct. 11. The Justice Department denied that request, citing the ongoing investigation by the citizen’s representative, while also noting it is the subject of an RNC probe.
An RNC liaison officer has been in touch with Cindy Flynn, she said, but the officer hasn’t been provided details of the scope of the investigation.
“I am in limbo and back to waiting,” she said.
Flynn said she hopes the investigations carried out by Denic’s office and the RNC look at the totality of her son’s case, including the time leading up to his death and the care he did — or did not — receive.
“You can’t say that he died of natural causes if those natural causes were caused by neglect,” she said. “If a public inquiry is needed, then let’s do it.”
Prison reformMaddison Osmond, Seamus Flynn’s younger cousin, says the medical examiner’s initial findings are disturbing.
“I want to know why he was that sick, how he got that sick, and why wasn’t he treated when he was that sick? And if he was treated, why wasn’t it adequate to make sure that he was still alive now?” she said.
Osmond said she’s looking forward to the full results from the medical examiner and wants to know if the incident in October contributed to his poor health.
Seamus Flynn, 35, died in early December after he was taken from Her Majesty’s Penitentiary to the hospital. (Seamus Flynn/Facebook)The ordeal has put prison conditions into sharp focus, Osmond said.
News that the provincial government has decided to restart the tendering process for a new facility has angered her.
‘Outrageous’ and ‘deplorable’ conditions at HMP need to be addressed immediately, say advocates She is urging the provincial government to ensure her cousin’s death is the last to happen at HMP.
“To the justice minister and the head of prisons, I would like to say I believe that you have failed this province and the society of Newfoundland by letting this get to the state that it has been,” she said.
“Prisons are meant to rehabilitate. You’re supposed to be better coming out than what you go in. You’re not supposed to die.”
WATCH | From December, Ariana Kelland tells Here & Now’s Carolyn Stokes what Seamus Flynn revealed to CBC News before he died:
What Seamus Flynn told CBC News about what happened to him weeks before he diedReporter Ariana Kelland tells Here & Now’s Carolyn Stokes about the recent death of Her Majesty’s Penitentiary inmate Seamus Flynn — and what he told her just two weeks before he died.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ariana Kelland is a reporter with the CBC Newfoundland and Labrador bureau in St. John’s. She is working as a member of CBC’s Atlantic Investigative Unit. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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