Godfrey Moyo

Epileptic Prisoner died after restraint

Compiled from various sources
published: 4WardEver UK – December 2010

Updates on this case will be listed at the foot of this item

Godfrey Moyo, 25, was on remand at HMP Belmarsh, when in the early hours of 3rd January 2005 he suffered a series of violent and exhausting seizures after he was restrained for a lengthy period of time by prison officers.

He was rushed to hospital from his shared cell at HMP Belmarsh Prison apparently suffering breathing problems, but was pronounced dead on arrival.

Godfrey was awaiting trial for the alleged knife killing of a Nigerian love rival, Fifi Mwenya, 28, outside a London nightclub. Godfrey had always denied the murder. Witnesses at the time said the dispute was over a girlfriend. They said Godfrey had suffered “extreme provocation” as he was followed by Mwenya for about 200 meters to his car which was parked near the nightclub.

Godfrey, who had a history of epilepsy, suffered his first fit in his cell in the early hours of the morning, and in the wake of the seizure had a behavioural disturbance during which he attacked his cellmate and struggled with guards.

He was then restrained and had two further seizures while pinned to the floor. He was carried by officers to the healthcare unit while unconscious, where he was placed in a cell, injected with a sedative and left kneeling against a bed.

The cell was referred to by prison staff as an Intensive Care Suite (ICS), and has since been decommissioned on safety grounds. Godfrey was left in the cell unsupervised for an unspecified period of time,

No observations of Godfrey were recorded by any officer or member of the healthcare team during the period he remained in the ICS. Some time later one of the nurses and several officers re-entered the ICS, where it was discovered that Godfrey was not breathing.

Godfrey’s family had to wait over four years for his inquest, which they hoped would examine whether the level of forced used during the duration of restraint by prison officers was justified as well as have their legal counsel scrutinise the appropriateness of the way in which prison officers carried Godfrey from his cell to the ICS.

The inquest concluded on 6th July 2009 with the jury deciding that the medical cause of his death was (a) positional asphyxia with left ventricular failure following restraint and (b) epilepsy.

The jury at Southwark Coroner’s Court today delivered a narrative verdict in July 2009 which said that two nurses failed to monitor his condition properly as he was restrained.

Godfrey’s sister Lomaculo Moyo said; “I have waited four and a half years to hear what happened on 3 January 2005 in HMP Belmarsh. I have been brave enough to sit here to hear painful evidence of the appalling and inhumane way that my brother was treated by prison staff, including nursing staff at HMP Belmarsh.

“The jury’s verdict reflects the shocking evidence of what happened on 3 January 2005. Godfrey was failed by a system that was meant to protect him – if staff had been doing their job properly his death could have been avoided.”

When explaining why he would make a detailed report (under Rule 43 of the Coroners Rules 1984) in due course to ministers about how similar deaths can be avoided in future, HM Deputy Coroner said ‘where do I start?’ and said he was concerned by the ‘complete lack of understanding of epilepsy among the staff including medical staff’ – and ‘this seems to be a system that was fundamentally flawed.’

Deborah Coles, Co-director of INQUEST said:

“Dangerous restraint methods and neglect caused Mr Moyo’s death. He was treated as a discipline and control problem rather than a human being in urgent need of medical treatment and care.

The responsibility for his death rests with the Prison Service and we await their response to this damning verdict. INQUEST will be raising the serious issues in this case at a policy and parliamentary level.

The responsibility for his death rests with the Prison Service and we await their response to this damning verdict. Inquest will be raising the serious issues in this case at a policy and parliamentary level.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “Like every death in custody, Godfrey Moyo’s death at HMP Belmarsh on 3 January 2005 is a tragedy and our sympathies are with his family and friends.

“The National Offender Management Service (Noms) will now carefully consider the inquest findings to see what lessons can be learned.”

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Follow-up News:

Belmarsh prison deaths – report reveals action still not taken
3 March 2011

Godfrey Moyo – prisoner or patient?
30 July 2009

The ordeal of Kessie Moyo
9 July 2009

Positional Asphyxia and Restraint Death at HMP Belmarsh – Jury Find Healthcare Guilty of Neglect
6 July 2009

Godfrey Moyo inquest highlights the growing numbers of black deaths in custody
19 June 2009


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