DEATH IN CUSTODY: Sean Rigg
A VISIBLY emotional Marcia Rigg-Samuel has shared her testimony at the inquest into her brother Sean's death.
She and other family members were accompanied by friends, well-wishers and her legal team.
In a pristine black suit and with a tissue in her hand, she recalled her memories of her younger brother as she answered questions asked by the coroner, her lawyer and jurors at Southwark Crown Court in London.
Background including medical history is being heard today (June 12).
Over the coming weeks, several witnesses who claim they saw Sean being restrained by officers will be called to give evidence.
Sean Rigg, 40, who had a history of mental health problems, was detained under the Mental Health Act by police officers, called by the public in August 2008.
He later collapsed and died at Brixton Police station in south London after witnesses said he was aggressively restrained by officers.
At court, Rigg-Samuel said her brother was a health-conscious man who was very fit when he died on August 21, 2008.
She told the court of the family’s shock when officers visited her home with news that her younger brother had been arrested and had "suddenly collapsed and died".
INQUEST: Southwark Coroner's Court in London
In a joint statement before the start of the inquest, the Rigg family had said: “We have been battling for nearly four years to find out the truth of what happened to our brother that night. Sean was doing great things in his life and it was devastating his life was cut short in this way.
"Sean should have been safe in the care of the police and the mental health services. We believe his death was wholly avoidable and welcome the chance for the evidence to be finally aired publicly and properly scrutinised.”
Both the police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and the police were criticised for how they handled Rigg’s case.
Family members told reporters in 2009 that they were not informed of Rigg’s death until nearly six hours had passed. They claim they were not allowed to see his body for a further 36 hours and were alarmed by one particular injury.
Charity, Inquest, which is supporting the family, said Rigg’s relatives hoped the inquest would answer questions including: how Sean, who appeared to be physically healthy, suddenly died and why mental health services failed to carry out an emergency intervention when it became clear that he had ceased taking his medication and was going into crisis.
There are also concerns about why he was allegedly restrained and transported in the back of a police van to Brixton police station rather than to a hospital for emergency medical care.
The inquest will last until July 24 and is being heard by a 10-member jury.
Vigils are to be held outside police stations across Britain on Fathers Day, June 17.
The event will remember Riggs and other death in custody victims, many of whom were fathers, said charity Black Mental Health UK (BMHUK).