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Officer's knees 'knocking together' fearing Kingsley Burrell

SEEKING JUSTICE: Supporters on a march for Kingsley Burrell in Birmingham last year

AN INQUEST jury heard how a tall, well-built police officer said his “knees were knocking together” in fear at the prospect of being called, with three other officers armed with Tasers, to deal with Kingsley Burrell at a psychiatric unit.

PC Mark Shorthouse, who is six feet four inches tall and weighed more than 16 stone at the time, had had a brief locker room conversation with his colleague PC Paul Greenfield who had met Kingsley three days earlier when he was first taken to Mary Seacole House.

PC Shorthouse told Karon Monaghan QC who is representing the mothers of Kingsley’s children that PC Greenfield had told him how strong he was.

Ms Mongahan asked him why he was so scared of Kingsley before having even met him and asked him if he knew he was black, but he said no.

She said: “Are you sure you were not applying the stereotype of Kingsley being mad, black and dangerous?” to which he replied: “No, not at all.”

PC Shorthouse later told the inquest that the aggression Kingsley showed was “immense.”

“It came in peaks and troughs,” he said. “He was the strongest, most aggressive person I have ever met in my career as a police officer.”

He said at times he had palm struck Kingsley with the heel of his hand to control him, but they had no effect as he seemed to have “no pain threshold.”

The inquest into Kingsley, who died in March 2011 following contact with police and NHS staff, heard how he was taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s A&E for treatment to a minor head wound.

Four police officers, including PC Shorthouse travelled with him in the ambulance where he was strapped on a trolley, handcuffed and in leg restraints.

Once inside a cubicle in A&E, PC Shorthouse said Kingsley spat at the doctor who was trying to treat him, so a paramedic used a crocheted waffle-effect blanket as an improvised spit mask to cover Kingsley’s face.

Three types of covering were shown to the jury – a draw sheet, a standard sheet and a crocheted-style blanket, which was the type PC Shorthouse said was used. He called it a “holey” blanket, which had holes through it.

He said the blanket was not wrapped around Kingsley’s head, just draped and he was lying on his side.

Coroner Louise Hunt asked if anyone challenged the paramedic’s decision to use the blanket as an improvised spit mask and PC Shorthouse said no.

Kingsley was then returned to the ambulance for a two-minute journey to a seclusion room at the Caffra Unit in the Oleaster Suite.

Ms Hunt asked PC Shorthouse if he could remember seeing an ambulance worker with his hand on top of the blanket covering Kingsley’s face in the ambulance, but he said he could not say for sure.

He said: “Kingsley was saying he wanted a DNA test and he wanted to see his kids. Then he said ‘I can’t breathe’ but the paramedic said to him: ‘You can because you’re talking.’”

PC Shorthouse later told Ms Monaghan that he assumed Kingsley saying he couldn’t breathe was “tactical.”

Ms Monaghan said: “He had been heavily restrained for two hours, he tells you he can’t breathe and you think he is playing you up?”

PC Shorthouse said: “He was not panting. He was speaking normally.” He later said that Kingsley was not gasping for breath.

Both Ms Monaghan and the coroner had asked if they had felt it necessary to watch Kingsley a bit more closely because, due to the blanket, they could not see Kingsley’s expression or see any signs of distress.

Ms Monaghan said: “Did it occur to you that the spitting was part of Kingsley’s psychosis?” to which PC Shorthouse replied that the spitting was part of his aggression.

She said: “To subdue the aggression you were beating him?” but PC Shorthouse said: “No, not at all.”

PC Shorthouse said he and the other officers put Kingsley in the seclusion room, using a cell insertion technique reserved for people who are extremely violent. He was in a prone – face down – position on a bed “for an absolute minimum” while the restraints were removed.

The officers then left him in the room and went briefly for refreshments in a nearby kitchen.

Ms Hunt said: “Why did you not check on Kingsley afterwards that he was ok?”

PC Shorthouse said: “He was in a hospital.”

He recalled that a member of staff had come into the kitchen and said Kingsley’s respiratory level was seven, which is low enough to be a cause for concern. A normal rate is anything between 12 and 18 breaths per minute.

Ms Hunt asked if there was any sense of concern or urgency about this and PC Shorthouse said no.

The case continues.

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