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'Death in custody victim was healthy', inquest told

GRIEF STRICKEN: Marcia Rigg-Samuel (right) with brother Wayne and sister Samantha outside Southwark Coroner’s Court in London on Tuesday (June 12)

THERE WAS no physical reason why talented black musician Sean Rigg should have collapsed suddenly while in police custody, his sister told the inquest into his death.

Sean’s sister Marcia Rigg-Samuel told Southwark Coroner’s Court in London her brother was a health-conscious man who was very fit when he died on August 21, 2008.

Sean, 40, who had a history of mental health problems, was detained under the Mental Health Act by police officers following calls from the public.

He later collapsed and died at Brixton Police station, in south London, after witnesses allege he was aggressively restrained by officers.

Asked whether Sean had ever suddenly collapsed in the 40 years she had known him, Rigg-Samuel said no.

“He didn’t really drink, he didn’t take drugs, he was a very health conscious person,” said Rigg-Samuel, who was accompanied to court by brother Wayne, sister Samantha and other supporters.

Fighting back tears, she recalled her memories of her younger brother and 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”.

The court heard that no one else in the family had died in a similar way, raising questions about what caused his death.

The jury and coroner also heard that Sean, who had lived with mental health problems for 20 years, was fine if he took his prescribed medication to help his diagnosed schizophrenia.

She said: “He was very charming, loving and had lots of friends”.

However, he had a pattern of disrupting his treatment. “Because he felt well, he would think he’s ok and then he wouldn’t take it,” said Rigg-Samuel.

Professor Tom Fahy, Sean’s mental health consultant, also confirmed in his testimony that Sean would often stop taking his medication.

Asked whether medication Sean was taking could have been a contributing factor to his death, Fahy said Sean would not have been at risk. “He was a slim, fit, healthy young man,” the consultant said.

Jurors heard that Sean was known to Brixton police officers and had been detained several times. Usually, he was taken to a mental health unit - although there were times he had been taken to police stations.

Rigg-Samuel recalled having to contact -or being contacted by – authorities in countries ranging from Paris and Switzerland to Thailand when her brother relapsed while travelling overseas.

She said he was often repatriated to the UK where he would be taken straight to a mental health unit.

“His pattern was very well known by everybody,” she said.

The inquest, which will hear from witnesses who claim they saw Sean being restrained by officers, will last until July 24 and is being heard by a 10-member jury.

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