Yet another Black death in the Met’s custody

September 15, 2005

Written by IRR News Team

Paul Coker, 32, died on 6 August 2005 in a police cell in Plumstead, South east London, just two hours after being arrested for causing a breach of the peace.

It was reported to the Coker family that Paul had been restrained by police officers but an initial post mortem was inconclusive as to the cause of death. A second post mortem has been ordered by the family. The Independent Police Complaints Commission is now carrying out an inquiry into his death.

It appears that fifteen police officers called at the flat of Paul’s girlfriend, Lucy, following a disturbance. Paul’s sister has said that Lucy tried to defuse the situation – and tried to get to Paul who was surrounded by officers. But she was led away to a downstairs flat from where she reportedly heard Paul screaming at the police to ‘let me go’ and ‘you’re killing me.’ Another woman reportedly said that Paul was not struggling as he was carried out by the police, held by his arms and legs.

The organisation Inquest, which is working with the Coker family and their lawyers at the Deighton Guedella firm, believes that Paul’s death raises concerns over restraint techniques and associated dangers as well as the level of care, checks and medical intervention he received at Plumstead police station. Paul’s mother has been upset that, though he died at 6.35am, Lucy was not told of the death till five hours later and the family were not informed till 3pm.

Paul Coker had won a compensation case against the Metropolitan Police six years ago and a second legal action against the Prison Service was pending.

Ten days after the death, a candle-lit vigil was held outside the police station at 200 Plumstead High Street. The family remembered ‘compassionate, thoughtful and kind-hearted’ Paul who had a distinctive sense of humour and loved playing with his nephews and nieces. ‘We were proud and honoured to have him as a son, brother and friend’, read the family’s statement.

Related links

IRR factfile on Black deaths in custody

Inquest

United Families and Friends Campaign

Injustice – a film by Migrant Media

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

Comments

September 23, 2005
Jackie:

I am so sorry for Paul and his family. I experienced a similar encounter! I was restrained prone on two occasions – once for 15 mins and secondly for almost 2 hours! I did nearly die and almost accepted it as an inevitable conclusion. I have researched the subject in detail and am the only survivor – so far as I am aware! I do believe, however, there must be others. Do you know if Paul was held in the prone position (on his belly – face down)? I hope I receive a reply to this

September 23, 2005
Pat Coker:

Hello Jackie, I am Paul’s mother.Thank you so much for your comments. Many people are supporting our campaign for Justice for Paul and this will continue. I can not answer your question about restraint techniques at the moment because we do not know the answers yet. Thr State denied him his life as so many others. We are determined to campaign for justice.

November 5, 2005
Ciara:

To all who knew Paul- you have my deepest sympathy.

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