source: The Guardian
published: 1 February 2017
The mother of a church caretaker with mental health issues who died after police placed a large webbing belt across his face has told a jury she had never known him to bite or spit.
Thomas Orchard, 32, told officers he was struggling to breathe before he suffered a cardiac arrest, the court heard, and he died in hospital seven days after being restrained.
A police sergeant and two civilian detention officers deny the manslaughter of Orchard, who was arrested following a disturbance in Exeter city centre. They have claimed he was being aggressive and threatening to bite them.
On the second day of their trial at Bristol crown court, Orchard’s mother, Alison, described her son’s descent into mental illness after dabbling in drugs.
She said he was first sectioned on his 21st birthday and spent time in prison and a mental health unit, but had been more stable after becoming a Christian and starting to do cleaning work and readings at a church in Exeter. However, he had a relapse just before his arrest.