Investigation launched into death of man in Sunderland police cell

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SUNDERLAND’S top police officer today said the force will fully cooperate with an investigation into the death of a man in a Wearside police cell.

The 43-year-old died in the early hours of Saturday morning after being held at Washington Police Station.

An inquest into the death, now under investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), is expected to open tomorrow.

The man was arrested at his home in Houghton on Thursday after he did not turn up for an appearance before Gateshead Magistrates’ Court last Tuesday, where he was facing a charge of possessing an offensive weapon.

He was put in a cell at Washington Police station and, as a matter of routine, was seen by doctors who work on behalf of the force.

He was due to appear in court on Saturday.

At 11.39pm on Friday, concerned for his well-being, an ambulance was called to Washington Police Station at the request of a doctor. During this time, the man’s condition worsened and another 999 call was made.

At 1am on Saturday, he was pronounced dead on arrival at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead.

Chf Supt Kay Blyth said: “We will now be fully cooperating with the IPCC during their investigation into this incident.

“It’s a very sad time for the family, and we feel for them and what they must be going through. We offer our sincere condolences at what is clearly a difficult time for them.

“Any death in police custody, irrespective of the circumstances, must be immediately referred to the IPCC, and we are working with them to fully assist with their investigation.”

An IPCC spokesman confirmed the man’s next of kin had been informed.

and that a post- mortem examination was taking place over the weekend.

He added: “We are making contact with the man’s family to explain our role and to update them on the investigation.”

The death is the second in Northumbria Police custody within the space of a week.

Martin Leek was found unconscious at South Shields Police Station on Friday, March 22. The 34-year-old, who had been held om suspicion of being drunk and disorderly, was later pronounced dead at South Tyneside District Hospital.

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Vera Baird, said: “While it should not be forgotten that Northumbria Police successfully manage the safety and welfare of thousands of prisoners each year, the public are likely to be concerned about the safety and reliability of custody handling procedures.

“Local residents can be assured that if action needs to be taken, I will do so.”

In 2003, Martin Dakers, 17, died in a cell at Washington police station after he was arrested for being drunk and disorderly.

Twitter: @craigjourno