Brain death after ‘violent’ police restraint of Masters student
Olaseni Lewis, known to his family and friends as Seni, was a young black man aged 23 years, engaged in post-graduate Masters studies in IT and Business Management. He had no prior history of mental illness or any untoward behaviour until the fateful evening of Sunday 29 August 2010 when his family and friends noticed that he was behaving very strangely, moving between calm and agitated phases. This was by no means considered normal for Olaseni.
They sought professional help, resulting eventually in his admission as a vulnerable voluntary patient at the Bethlem Royal Hospital early in the evening of Tuesday 31 August 2010.
The hospital called the police in order to restrain Mr Olaseni, who they say had become violent, within hours of his family leaving. But after a seven-police restraint at the hospital his airway became blocked and Lewis collapsed and slipped into a coma.
Nurses at the hospital were said to have been “horrified” at the behaviour of the police and later logged their action on the hospital records as “violent restraint”. Highlighting the fact that while the police being called to restrain a patient is common practice, the staff themselves deemed the actions of the police to be excessive.
Olaseni was taken by ambulance to Mayday Hospital where brain stem death was confirmed following tests on 3 and 4 September 2010.
Seni’s family and friends are determined to ensure that all the circumstances of his tragic death are brought under proper scrutiny so that they can obtain the answers that they need from those responsible for the fatal restraint and those to whom their loved one had been entrusted.
A post-mortem examination into the cause of the Olaseni’s death is believed to have been inconclusive. Police sources said officers had been called to deal with a violent patient. He collapsed and officers gave first aid and attempted to revive him. No officers were suspended or placed on restricted duties as a result of the incident.
Olaseni is understood to have been detained under the Mental Health Act.
Deborah Coles, co-director of INQUEST, which is working with the family and their lawyer said: “This is a deeply disturbing death and it is vital both for the family and the public that there is a rigorous, far-reaching investigation into the fatal restraint of a vulnerable black man in need of care and protection.
“INQUEST has worked on far too many cases where dangerous restraint has resulted in the deaths of vulnerable people, a disproportionate number of whom are from black and minority ethnic communities”.
The family and friends of Seni Lewis were grateful for all the very many messages of support and condolence that they have received in the wake of his untimely death.