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Inquest into Sean Rigg’s death begins today

PROTEST: Demonstrators with a Sean Rigg placard demand answers

FAMILY MEMBERS of Sean Rigg, one of Britain’s most controversial deaths in custody cases, are hoping to get answers when an inquest into his death gets underway on Monday.

After a four year campaign to get an inquest heard, Rigg’s family said they are hoping to finally hear the truth when a coroner at Southwark Coroners Court, Tennis Street in London finally begins looking into what happened to the black musician. The inquest will start on June 11.

The 40-year-old, who had a history of mental health problems, was detained under the Mental Health Act by police officers, who were called by the public in August 2008. He later collapsed and died at Brixton Police station in south London after witnesses said he was restrained by police officers.

In a joint statement, Rigg’s family 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. For example, family members had told reporters in 2009 that they were not informed of Rigg’s death until nearly six hours had passed. They said they were not allowed to see his body for a further 36 hours and were alarmed at one particular injury.

INQUEST, which is supporting the family, said Rigg’s relatives hope the inquest will answer questions such as how Rigg, 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 Sean had ceased taking his medication and was going into crisis.

There are also concerns abou why, when it became clear Sean was experiencing a mental health crisis, he was (allegedly) restrained and transported in the back of a police van to Brixton police station rather than a hospital for emergency medical care.

INQUEST’s co-director Deborah Coles said: “INQUEST has significant concerns about how vulnerable people with mental health issues are treated by the police. This is a deeply disturbing death and it is vital both for the family and the public that there is a rigorous, far-reaching investigation into the treatment of a vulnerable black man in need of care and protection.”  

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).

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