‘At one stage he seemed to be buried by police officers and you could hardly see him’
Today we heard evidence from Forensic scientists and independent witnesses and from staff from the hospital and the IPCC. As ever these processes throw up more questions than answers and we are left wondering why certain witnesses were not pursued and others asked to give evidence.
Until the immediate aftermath and location of a death after contact or in custody are treated as crime scenes and kept sterile we will always be left wondering. Clearly we cannot have the police approaching witnesses but at the same time there is little confidence in the IPCC to manage this.
This morning we heard from Denise Stanworth a Forensic scientist. Coroner asked her to read key parts of the statement. She explained what she was asked to do – examining blood and urine samples from Habib for traces of drugs and alcohol etc.She confirmed he had traces of painkillers and sleeping tablets in the blood as well as methadone and in his urine there were traces of cocaine and methadone and the cocaine had been eliminated via kidney so there had been some use earlier.Stanworth also Indicated use of cocaine by Habib prior to his death and that he was using methadone.
She referred to later report in 2009 which confirmed that the package in his rectum was intact and had not split. She was asked to analyse the samples to see if any substances might have contributed to his death. For some reason cocaine was at higher level in the preserved sample but no cocaine detected in nasal or mouth swabs. Stanworth Confirmed that the package in Habib’s mouth is not likely to have leaked due to levels of drugs present in the saliva
Tony Metzer QC, family lawyer questioned her about when the drug use is likely to have taken place and she confirmed that it would have been likely to have been used recently as well as prescribed drugs. He asked her about Habib’s drowsiness and this being linked to heroin and cocaine use and she confirmed that this could explain this. She confirmed that the packages had not ruptured and that there was no significant leakage – majority of what was detected was from usage
Thames Valley Police Counsel Patrick Gibbs for the officers confirmed the number of samples and the process undertaken and the timescale for this. Stanworth clarified that there are very few deaths attributable to cocaine toxicity. Obvious to us that Gibbs wanted to over-emphasise the role and use of drugs in Habib’s death. Previously they had minimised the drug use as a risk impact for the police but want to attribute death more to the drug use and levels of this rather than the restraint used by officers.
Gibbs asked question about swallowing package which was objected by Tony and the Jury and witness was asked to leave the court while this was discussed. Question is not appropriate for this witness as she should be asked questions on her findings rather than speculation He asked her about tolerance levels and impact of use – euphoria and physiological effects. Confirmed that she had ruled out rupturing of package and that nothing was detected via nasal swabs.
AGAIN Gibbs tried to ask the question about the package bursting and the Coroner had ask this after objections and Stanworth said that she had not dealt with a case directly but had read about it. She was asked about the risks and she said that there a risk of overdosing and this has lead to seizures. Again she confirmed that there are very few deaths attributable to cocaine and these tend to be in drugs mules. Cocaine increases heart rate but does not led to death unless someone is having a heart attack.
It was confirmed that Heroin and methadone levels were of someone who uses drugs fairly regularly but not particularly high level and was asked about the combination of drugs taken but she was not willing to speculate. Jurors asked about length of time that the blood was tested after the time of death and confirmed that was taken at the post mortem the day after after. Asked about drugs being mixed and the impact of this. One juror asked about if swabs were taken from rectum and she said that she it wasn’t
‘The girl was screaming, it was horrible like a horror movie’
We heard evidence from Susan Lewis who is an independent witness and lives in the flats by the car park. She knew Emma as a neighbour and watched incident from her balcony and she stated that it lasted for ten minutes. The witness clearly sees the restraint by the police taking place and was surprised that no one came to interview her afterwards. Tony asked Susan questions to confirm what she did and did not see and she recognised that she had made mistakes because she gave her statement more than 5 years after the incident. She missed the beginning of the incident as she was in the kitchen and she stated that she saw his hand to his mouth. Was asked about him being on his back rather than front but she could not see his face hence the assumption. She felt ‘totally sick and disgusted by what was going on on my doorstep’.
No one else saw Habib throw punches except her and she accepts that it may not have been the case as it was a struggle and she saw a number of officers wrestle him to the ground. There were some glaring inconsistencies with her version of events. She recalls seeing a knee on his body and seeing an officer put his hands on Habib’s neck and it seems that this was the same officer and that she him on the ground before he went limp.Officers seemed to be in shock and they seemed to be asking what had happened and it was clear to her that no one was in charge. TVP Counsel for the officers questioned her about the police trying get package out of his mouth.
Do you know the difference between truth and lies?
This was question that was put to the vulnerable witness with severe learning difficulties. Video evidence of an interview was shown to the court – it would have been helpful for jury to have a transcript to follow this as this was not easy to understand. She confirmed that that he was face down on his back and the police had his arms around his back and there was a policeman with both of his knees on his back. She demonstrated this on a doll and on a charity officer present. Does beg the question why IPCC/TVP missed witnesses initially and have focussed on a vulnerable one. This witness went to her local Imam and then the local Surestart/Children’s Centre who then supported her to come forward.
We then heard statements from Amy Collard & Reverend Ashby who witnessed different parts of the incident Amy noted the delay that it took for the ambulance to come (15 mins) from when the incident started. Ashby described the scene from a car and significantly observed that the police did not touch him and were just ‘standing there’
A statement from Mary Edith Jones from South Bucks Ambulance Service was read out and which confirmed that the call that went out was a priority B1 for a ‘sick person’. The call received was 7.33 and the ambulance arrived 7.38 and confirmed that records of this were handed to IPCC.
The last part of the afternoon were short statements that were read out from staff who had various roles after Habib’s death Thandiwe Khumalo Staff Nurse at Wycombe General Hospital had taken package from Dr Tran and passed it to a police officer on the 3rd July. Greg Reilly from IPCC printed photo of package and confirmed with Kumalo that it was the package that she was given by Dr Tran. Finally Matthew Hickson a Forensic scientist supplied a statement about the small quantity of drugs that were found.