Custody death: signs of mental illness

originally published:
18th November 2009

A Birmingham GP described how she suspected a father-of-three had signs of “mental illness” three days before he died in police custody, an inquest heard.

Michael Powell, aged 38, was taken to Thornhill Road Police Station, in Handsworth, after he was arrested for causing a disturbance outside his home. He died while in police cells on September 6, 2003.

GP Prema Iyengar told the inquest at Sutton Coldfield Town Hall she had been Mr Powell’s doctor for more than 15 years. She said Mr Powell was not a “frequent visitor” to the Churchill Medical Centre in Perry Barr and she had seen him around a dozen times.

On September 3, Mr Powell visited Ms Iyengar on an “emergency appointment”, although she could not recall whether he had made the appointment himself or if someone had made it on his behalf.

She said: “Emergency appointment in view of a doctor is different to view of a patient. To me it’s something like a heart attack, short of breath. Something quite serious.”

Records show Mr Powell had arrived at the clinic at 10.30am and left at 11.41am although Ms Iyengar said there may have been a problem with the computer as it was “not normal” for a patient to be seen for more than an hour.

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