Today we started with the first of independent witness this morning. Emma Dellaway (formerly Emma Forbes) came ahead of the remaining police officers due to her limited availability. The Coroner asked her to look at her the IPCC statement for reference and asked her questions on the basis of this. She confirmed her relationship with Habib was based around their drug use.
She stated that police were ‘desperate’ to seize drugs on that evening. Her evidence was vivid and damning of the officers involved in the restraint and described their actions and how they responded to her calls that they were strangling him.. She stated that Habib’s intention in her view to go into the car port was to spit the item out. Police’s original statements to her were misleading re: the bag rupturing and causing his death. She was upset that they did not allow her to see the body and she did not attend the funeral.
She largely blamed the four male officers and not PC Kate Grainger for the restraint and in her description all the officers were ‘hanging off him’ and it escalated very quickly. In terms of her recollection of events she stated that in 2008 she had memory problems that she described as ‘absences’ and was on methadone and still suffers from headaches. Emma confirms that up to the point of Pap’s dropping his trousers she felt that the stop and search was ending and that she was aware that she had something in her mouth at this point at the same time as the officers. Emma described the length of time of the restraint to about 5 minutes and questioned why they did not arrest him.
She states that she saw him look at her and ‘swallow the bag’ before they brought him to the ground. She confirmed to the family lawyer that both she and Habib had taken drugs during the day. When she heard the officer shout out ‘break his arm’ she was shocked and it was not something that police should be saying and identified that DS Liles (man with purple shirt) was being vicious with him. Additionally she described what PC Wynne was doing during the restraint.
Emma shouted a number of times to the police that they were strangling him and that in her belief that they killed him. She also clarified that she subsequently realised that it was PC Pomery NOT a PC Lewis that had his hands on her throat and put this down to not being familiar with the officer. Emma confirmed that when he went limp they were shocked and did absolutely nothing. After further questioning she was not sure if he swallowed completely and that it may have lodged in his throat. Stated that she saw Pomery’s two thumbs on Habib’s windpipe and the grabbing of the throat by him troubled Emma greatly.
She confirmed that she saw four officers attack him and bring him to the floor and that afterwards see him going blue – face/lips and that it indicating that was dying. She says that she said this a number of times to the officers. Emma is still shocked now and described it as the most traumatic thing that she has had to go through. She confirmed that she was screaming Pap’s name and that he was making croaking noises. She recalls talking to Wynne and asking the officers to check his pulse and give CPR and felt that he died at the end of this period of restraint with the officers.
There was further clarification from her that the period of time of restraint on the floor was for 5-10 minutes and it was a 5 mins or longer before the ambulance came. In her opinion if they had given him first aid/CPR he could have been saved. Emma described calling out his name and there was nothing and then he went from blue to grey after the last few sounds that he made. She maintained that the officers did nothing to help Habib. She even offered to give him first aid but they did not allow her to do this. That again they were shocked and stood and did nothing when he went limp.
The Counsel for Thames Valley Police typically tried to paint both Emma and Habib in a negative light in his cross examination about their life styles and drug habits but she defiantly held her own. It was clear that tactically Gibbs wanted to show that she was an unreliable witness. Significantly she complained about harassment from the police prior to the incident and that Pap’s had been attacked and sprayed with CS gas by an officer. During the search she said that he was looking to make a complaint.
Emma did not believe that the police would kill him or that he would die during the restraint. She felt 100% they were going to ‘break his arm’ when she heard this command but though she was being restrained she was still able to see what was happening. They were trying to open his mouth but she can’t confirm that that they did this and but that he was on his front for much of this time.
She can’t recall him being put in a recovery position by the officers. She does however recall asking officers if he was breathing. Her memory of him going blue is when the police were restraining him. Jurors asked Emma about the restraint and what she saw and when his mouth was open (when he was making croaking noises). Also that his mouth and lips were becoming blue. She can’t remember whether Habib said anything during the struggle.
In the afternoon PC Pomery gave evidence and was again warned not to give any prior information that he knew about Habib. He was questioned about the statementing process and it was confirmed that his original draft was ‘destroyed’. He read a later statement and was asked about this by the Coroner
Pomery was aware of the first back slap that was administered by DS Liles but not sure who did the subsequent backslaps. Questioned about how the hold he administered on Habib’s neck and neither this or pinching of the nostrils are approved officer techniques. Again he was asked about the length of time that the struggle took place and he suggested 2-3 minutes. He did not notice any change of colouration and he is not sure about the period of time before the ambulance arrived. He states that he could observe Habib’s chest going up and down and that he was the officer who put him a ‘recovery’ position.
Tony Metzer QC the family lawyer began his cross examination and confirmed prior to the officer’s actions he was fully compliant. He was asked why he grabbed hold of Habib and when did he did this in relation to the first back slap. They succeeded in taking him to the ground after a struggle and he confirmed that the other blows by DS Liles took place when he was on the floor.
PC Pomery applied knee strikes to Habib when he was halfway down – there were three to four officers restraining him. The other backslaps were after the knee strikes. There was no communication between him and DS Lilies about these actions and no coordination between them. How did they know that these tactics being used were not excessive in these circumstances?
Why were knee strikes used? In Pomery’s view the purpose of these were for distraction to bring him under control and these were pain compliant techniques. He did he not think that these techniques and use of these were excessive? Pomery was not troubled by Liles command ‘break his arm’ but could understand that this would sound terrible to a member of the public. He did not believe that the package was stuck in his throat and it did not cross his mind that their actions would contribute to this.
Were their actions based on the training that had received? What was the purpose of slapping the back of Habib in these circumstances? These actions were clearly unlawful as these should only be used if someone is choking and definitely not being restrained face down. First Aid training suggests that you this is permissible ONLY when someone is choking and he was questioned about whether the training permitted them to use this action.
Pomery confirmed that he used a number of pain compliance techniques and it was put to him why in his previous evidence he denied using these. Surprisingly he did not see any of his colleagues use these either. PC Pomery in relation to the previous statement by DS Liles confirmed that continued use of the Mandibular Angle pressure point technique would amount to torture. He denied that his hold on the neck would constrain his breathing and confirmed that this not a taught or approved technique. He does not regret these actions. It was confirmed that on that night he stated to a senior officer that he was worried that he have used too much force.
Pomery did not consider the possibility of positional asphyxia. He considered that Habib was play acting until the paramedic arrived. He maintains that he could not open Habib’s mouth and that he was actively resisting and that he could not do this even after he was put in a recovery position.
It was an interesting two sessions at the inquest court as we heard from both an independent witness and a police officer on the same day. We had a good crowd in the public gallery morning and afternoon but sadly the Counsel for Thames Valley Police decided to make an issue with some of the ‘noise’ coming from them. In the face of the sometimes harrowing sometimes banal evidence that they were hearing it is only to be expected that folk will make their disgust and revulsion apparent, not only at the actions/non-actions of the officers but at their attempts to redact and edit their statements subsequently.