Drug abuse and terrible health is said to have preceded Jay Maree Harmer's death in jail. (File)
Drug abuse and terrible health is said to have preceded Jay Maree Harmer's death in jail. (File) Kat Smith

Dead in her sleep at 38

HOOKED on heroin at 13, in and out of court as an adult, sick with cirrhosis in her thirties, dead in her sleep at 38.

The sad story of former Ipswich woman Jay Maree Harmer was outlined at a pre-inquest conference on Wednesday.

Now, the use of cellmates as "carers" in jail, and the standard of prison healthcare could be scrutinised as a coroner examines Harmer's final days.

Harmer, a chronic drug abuser and thief, died in July 2016 at Brisbane Women's Correctional Centre.

A cellmate was acting as Harmer's carer, Coroner Terry Ryan was told.

Dan Bartlett, counsel assisting the coroner, said Harmer was diagnosed with iron deficiency and bipolar disorder.

She also had advanced liver disease, asthma, and post-traumatic stress disorder, Mr Bartlett said.

In July 2013 she was diagnosed with cirrhosis.

"Her condition deteriorated over the next three years," Mr Bartlett said.

But he said despite her worsening condition, Harmer firmly wanted to stay in jail, rather than Princess Alexandra Hospital.

Brisbane Coroners Court heard the carer and cellmate was a young woman who had to cope with the trauma of seeing Harmer dead.

The cellmate was there for six weeks before Harmer died.

After an autopsy on July 4, 2016, a pathologist found hepatitis C had caused cirrhosis, which in turned caused liver failure.

Mr Bartlett said a police offer who investigated said "the death was unavoidable".

In Queensland, inquests are mandatory for anybody who dies in custody.

The inquest for Harmer will start on April 4 and is likely to take one day.

A doctor, police officer, and Queensland Corrective Services employee are expected to give evidence.

Mr Ryan told lawyers they must tell him by February 21 if more witnesses will be called, or more issues discussed at the inquest. -NewsRegional