The family of a Spanish prisoner who was pronounced dead by three doctors before waking up as he was being prepared for autopsy have demanded he immediately be released from jail.
Gonzalo Montoya Jimenez, 29, began snoring on an autopsy table in a morgue in Asturias four hours after his death was certified at a local prison on Sunday morning. The man – whose body had already been marked up for the procedure – was on Tuesday awake and recovering in hospital as authorities opened investigations into the mysterious case.
The prisoner was discovered in his cell by guards at around 8am on Sunday, seated in a chair, blue, and showing no signs of life, according to officials. His death was certified first by the doctor on the overnight shift, then a second on duty that morning, and finally by a forensic specialist before he was transported to the morgue.
Family members revealed yesterday that Montoya Jimenez had tried to commit suicide by taking an overdose of barbiturates, accusing prison authorities of failing to control access to medication. The prisoner had reportedly been taking anti-epileptic drugs, while relatives suggested he was also being treated for anxiety, though the specific substances involved have yet to be confirmed.
“The pills are taken as they (the prisoners) want,” said Luis Manuel Montoya, his uncle, according to local paper La Voz de Asturias. He and other family members gathered at the hospital in the town of Oviedo said they would be seeking Montoya Jimenez’s immediate release as compensation for what they branded negligence. The 29-year-old has seven months left to serve of his sentence, for stealing scrap metal.
“We don’t want him to go back to jail. If he goes in, he will come out as a body,” Mr Montoya said. Shocked by his nephew’s suicide attempt, he said he nevertheless understood it. “He is young, he is 29 years old and has his whole life ahead of him. He has been in jail three years and he couldn’t go on anymore.”
The prisoner’s father, José Carlos Montoya, said he had tried to hang himself in his cell seven months ago. “It’s clear that in the jail they do not supervise him nor treat him well,” he told El Comercio, adding that his son was given “pills for his nerves, but it was not enough”.
Relatives also cast doubt on whether Montoya Jimenez was properly examined by all three doctors who pronounced him dead, suggesting that instead the first certificate had simply been rubber-stamped by the second and third physicians.
It was initially suggested that Montoya Jimenez may have suffered a rare case of catalepsy, a nervous condition which induces an unresponsive state. Tests have since indicated the coma caused by the overdose, along with severe hypothermia, may have masked his vital signs.