Expert tells of ‘critical event’ in police van

Police watchfrom Birmingham Mail
25th November 2009

A man died in police custody in Birmingham because of the way he was restrained, a medical expert told an inquest jury.

Officers used CS gas and physical force to control father-of-three Michael Powell after he smashed windows at his mother’s home in Wilton Street, Lozells, in September 2003. He was eventually handcuffed, bundled into a van and taken to Thornhill Road police station in Handsworth where he died after suffering a cardiac arrest. It is not known if Mr Powell, 38, was forced to lie face down or on his side in the police van.

Forensic pathologist Jack Crane said a “critical” event had happened in the van which caused Mr Powell to die of positional asphyxia – a condition which occurs when someone’s position prevents them from breathing adequately.

Dr Crane, former Northern Ireland state pathologist, said: “Laying on your front with one’s hands handcuffed behind one’s back with an individual exhausted is one of the most dangerous positions an individual can be put in.

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