Youth dies of heart attack whilst in police custody
by 4WardEver UK
Originally published 22nd November 2005
News updates on this case will be listed at the foot of this item
On 30th August 2002 in scenes reminiscent of the Christopher Alder case, police officers left a dying 23-year-old man flat on the floor for an hour because they believed he was “faking” an illness to avoid arrest. It is alledged police had ignored Kwame Wiredu’s “wailing” and complaints of severe pain for a further 22 minutes. Mr Wiredu collapsed after being chased by the police for reportedly attempting to buy two cases of beer with a forged Barclaycard, but the arresting officers decided that he was faking illness.
He had to be carried into a police van and was in a state of collapse when he reached the police station. He was assessed as fit to be detained and interviewed by a doctor who formed the view that he was “tired from the chase”, but in fact the chase had taken place several hours prior to being seen by the doctor.
He was placed on 30-minute observations and located on the floor of a detention room. Any observations of Kwame were only carried out by way of CCTV coverage, and not by the correct procedure of visits to the cell.
Kwame was found in a state of cardiac arrest only when an officer bought a meal to his cell. After three hours in the cells Kwame was rushed to hospital where he was pronounced dead. He had suffered a heart attack. At St Pancras coroner’s court in October 2005, Witnesses described how they saw a lifeless Mr Wiredu being dragged out of the Sainsbury’s store in Dalston shopping centre, north London.
WPC Louise Horgan said Mr Wiredu was taken to Stoke Newington police station because she was convinced he was play acting. Sainsbury’s security guard Bertrand Kessou claimed WPC Horgan discussed calling an ambulance for Mr Wiredu but under questioning the police officer denied this.
There were other accounts given by witnesses who worked at the Sainsbury store. Worker, Sabrina Izzet, had walked past the store managers’ office. She said, “I saw him lying down, twitching slightly. He looked unconscious.
He looked like he needed medical help.” Customer services desk worker Doris Arthur said, “When I saw him I was a bit worried because of the way he was lying down. He looked weak.”
Some twenty minutes after his arrest CCTV footage shows a “dead-weight” Kwame Wiredu being taken out of the store at 1.52pm. Mr Kessou told the inquest, “I thought he was unwell. Officers were physically dragging him with his feet dragging along the ground.”
On arrival at Stoke Newington police station Kwame walked for a few seconds before collapsing again. Dawn Jarvis, a drugs referral worker based at the police station, told the inquest, “I noticed a gentleman lying motionless on the floor of the cage. I remember just staring at him, transfixed. “A woman police officer [WPC Horgan] said ‘come on, don’t be silly, get up’. She thought he was faking it. His face was screwed up in pain. He was speaking as if he was gasping, struggling for breath.”
The Inquest jury returned a verdict of natural causes, but added that “from beginning to end, the whole system failed Mr Wiredu … His physical distress and complaints of being unwell were not properly addressed right from his point of apprehension to the final check.”
Returning the verdict the jury expressed concern over Mr Wiredu’s care after being arrested. The jury spokeswoman added, “His visible distress was not addressed from the point of apprehension to the point of his death.”
Coroner for inner London north, Dr Andrew Reid, said he would be taking forward concerns over Mr Wiredu’s care in custody and to “prevent similar fatalities.”I have concerns about Mr Wiredu’s death. There was information that should have been obtained. “There was impaired communication and risk management.”
The victims’ father and several members of his family were present at the inquest. After the verdict Kwame’s aunt Abena Wiredua said, “It’s a life wasted. They treated him like an animal. He is a human being.
There is no capital punishment in this country. How could they let him die like that? They have to answer for it.”
His sister Adwoa Wiredu, 22, said, “We pray to God that the system will change. We have still not got justice. We can’t bring him back but we want to see this doesn’t happen again.”
Dr Reid paid tribute to the family. He said: “The court sends its’ sympathies and condolences to the family and apologises for the delays.”I commend the family for the dignity and patience they have shown in the case rather than the different posture other families have adopted in other cases.”
‘Whole system failed Kwame’
29 October 2005
Inquest concludes: “The whole system failed Kwame”
21 October 2005
Inquest Press Release (PDF file – off-site)
11 October 2005