Michael Sweeney

Father-to-be dies while he was strapped to a hospital trolley

all credits: The Guardian
published: 19th April 2011
News updates listed at the foot of this item

The police watchdog is investigating after a father-to-be died in police custody on 18th April 2011 following an apparent altercation at a pub in east London. Friends of Michael Sweeney, 38, said he was in the Approach tavern, in Hackney, east London on Monday evening when police were called. One friend told the Guardian that he had heard reports that more than 10 police officers had attended the scene and Sweeney was led away. He was pronounced dead later that evening at the Royal London Hospital.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan police said officers were called to the pub at 7.25pm following a report that there was a man on the premises in possession of a knife. “Officers attended and detained the man. He was taken to the Royal London hospital by police where the man subsequently died.”

Scotland Yard said the matter was being investigated by the directorate of professional standards at the Met and by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. Officers from the directorate of professional standards were at the pub most of the day.

Sweeney, of Bow, east London, was about to become a father for the first time, according to friends. But he had already served two long prison sentences.

The IPCC’s statement said: “At approximately 7.40pm on Monday 18 April 2011, police were called to the Approach tavern on Approach Road (E2) by a member of the public reporting that a man in the pub had a knife.

“Officers went to the pub and detained the man. A decision was taken to call an ambulance to take him to hospital rather than to a police station. However, the police incident log – a contemporaneous record of actions taken during the handling of an incident – shows that no ambulance units were available.

“A decision was made by the police to take the man to Royal London Hospital in a police van. The man was treated at hospital but was pronounced dead at 10.07pm. The Metropolitan police service (MPS) referred the incident to the IPCC and independent investigators were deployed overnight.”

The IPCC investigators will be studying police records and radio traffic, examining relevant evidence and looking at CCTV from inside the pub, as well as any available and relevant CCTV from the local area and from the hospital, the spokesman said. “They will be working to identify and speak to independent witnesses, including people who were inside the pub when the incident happened and medical staff at the hospital.”

IPCC commissioner Sarah Green said: “This investigation will examine the initial police response, the decision-making behind when and how to take him to hospital and the care he received while being transported, as well as any interaction between police officers and the man when at the hospital.

“A number of witnesses have already been identified, but we are keen to hear from anybody else who was inside the pub, or indeed anyone who saw any part of the incident as it unfolded.”

Sweeney’s death came as the IPCC continues its investigation into the death in police custody of the musician Smiley Culture, who died of a suspected stab wound after officers carried out a raid. The musician, whose real name is David Emmanuel, had been due to face trial for conspiracy to supply cocaine.

His biggest hit was Police Officer, in 1984. The record reached number 12 in the UK charts. His other singles included Cockney Translation and Schooltime Chronicle.

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Follow-up News:

Man died after two hours in custody
27 June 2011

‘Death in custody’ family plan march on Limehouse police station
24 May 2011

Jury finds that delay in getting medical care and the impact of over exertion during struggle
18 April 2011

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