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Inquest examines death of man pepper-sprayed by police

RESTRAINED: Jake Michael died on August 22 following contact with police

AN INQUEST into the death of a 25-year-old man who was pepper-sprayed by police and held face down by officers will begin next week.

Jacob Mambassa Michael, known as Jake, died on August 22, 2011, after being arrested and restrained by police in Runcorn.

The case will start on Monday, October 1, and will be heard before Coroner Nicholas Rheinberg at Daresbury Park Hotel in Warrington, Cheshire.

Jake had called the police himself after telling his family that he had been threatened.

Officers visited his family home where they forced their way into his bedroom and used pepper spray on him.

It is then believed he ran out of the house and was chased by several officers armed with batons.

CHASED

Eyewitnesses allege he was struck several times before being restrained and put in a custody van and taken to Runcorn police station.

A Home Office pathologist concluded Jake died of “excited delirium” – a term not recognised by the Department of Health.

His parents rejected the explanation, stating had he not had contact with the police their son would still be alive.

“My son called the police for help and they sprayed him with pepper spray and arrested him,” his mother Ann Michael said.

“Two hours later there was a knock on my door by the police to say that he had passed away. He was a fit twenty-five year old man. I want to know why. I just can't understand it.”

On the first day on the inquest, it is expected the jury will be shown CCTV footage of his ordeal.

In includes scenes of the young man arriving at the custody suite where he was held face down and restrained by police officers standing on his legs for several minutes.

More than 60 witnesses are listed to give evidence including Jacob’s mother, civilian eyewitnesses and police officers.

The inquest is scheduled to last for four weeks.

DISTRESSING

Deborah Coles, co-director of charity INQUEST, has been supporting the family and providing legal assistance.

She said: “Yet again, we begin an inquest into a death following restraint in police custody of a young black man.

“This is a particularly disturbing and distressing death, made all the more so by the existence of CCTV footage for much of his last minutes alive. Serious questions must be asked about how a young man in distress came to be hit with batons, restrained, and disregarded while he lay dying on a police cell floor.”

The family is being represented by Adam Sandell, of Matrix Chambers, instructed by the family solicitor Kate Maynard, of Hickman & Rose.

“It is vital both for Jacob Michael’s family and the public that this is a far reaching and thorough inquest into his death.”

Maynard said: “The family and the local community need to know how and why Jacob died in police hands.

“The family feels that the IPCC had not adequately investigated Jacob’s death and they now look to the inquest proceedings to get the answers they need.”

The inquest begins a week after the Met Police announced plans for a review into the way the force deals with people who may be suffering a mental health crisis.

It will be chaired by Lord Victor Adebowale and examine cases over the past five years where people – of which a high proportion are of African or Caribbean heritage – have died following contact with police.

Findings and recommendations will be published in February 2013.

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