A former detective who was found hanged in his East Sussex prison cell appeared relaxed and focused on the future, even when he heard that another inmate had hanged himself while in custody, an inquest has been told.

Staff at Lewes Prison reviewed Peter Foster's care following the other man's death, just two days before Foster killed himself at the jail on July 30, 2012.

Foster was jailed for life in June 2012 and told he must serve a minimum of 17 years for hitting Detective Constable Heather Cooper, 33, over the head 10 times with a baseball bat and stabbing her in the throat at their home in Haslemere, Surrey, before dumping her body in a shallow grave in Blackdown Woods, near Lurgashall, West Sussex.

The inquest at Eastbourne Town Hall was told that Foster, 36, was reluctant to attend Assessment, Care in Custody and Teamwork (Acct) meetings because he felt he did not need to be the subject of one.

But custodial manager Michael Brown said there was "no doubt in my mind that he would take his own life" and that the crisis would never be averted.

He said the Acct in Foster's case was more about how they were going to reduce the risks and the management of those risks throughout his time in custody so he had a better quality of life.

He said this would be done by allowing him privileges such as his own clothes or a filter for the light in his cell so he could sleep better, the hearing was told.

East Sussex Coroner Alan Craze said: "The only alternative was to keep him very, very safe for 17 years and that was not possible. He was allowed to have the privileges in the hope it would change his attitude."

But other staff at the prison, including nurses and a Probation Service officer, said he appeared more positive and was looking to where he would be going next.

Amanda Parry, a Probation Service officer at Lewes Prison, said Foster had asked her about moving to a lifers' unit and he was encouraged to consult the prisoners' handbook and make a list of four or five to see whether they would take him.

Gavin Davis, a senior officer who interviewed Foster on July 28, following the other man's death, said he seemed very relaxed and focused on the future, while Helen Stevens, a community psychiatric nurse, said he was "giving positive vibes" and that she thought "he wanted us to believe he was moving on".

She told the inquest he had genuinely appeared to be relaxed, laughing and chatty with other prisoners the day before his death but she said that may have been because he had already made up his mind to kill himself.

She said she had previously seen detailed letters written by Foster which looked as though he was putting his affairs in order, the inquest heard.

Foster had also become friends with another prisoner in the healthcare unit, Ivan Esack, who he discovered had been in the same line of work, the inquest was told.

Esack, a former detective who was jailed for life for stabbing his wife to death, said in a statement that the other prisoner's death had caused Foster "great upset".