Fall from flats kills man in handcuffs

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The Independent Online
A MAN WHO plummeted 80 feet to his death from the window of an eighth-floor flat in a Liverpool tower block after being arrested by police for possessing drugs was handcuffed when he fell, it was confirmed yesterday.

Kevin Byrne, 23, of no fixed address, fell on Thursday afternoon after being questioned by two plainclothes policemen with responsibilities for street drug crime who were searching for drugs in the Croxteth area of the city.

Local residents say that Mr Byrne, who did not live in the block, was a known heroin user and witnesses to his arrest are to be interviewed by police.

The police said they were looking for drugs with a search warrant at an address in Regal Towers, a semi-derelict 15-storey block in Sceptre Road, when Mr Byrne knocked at the flat door and was found to have controlled drugs. The unnamed occupier of the flat was present at the time but has not been arrested.

An initial police statement said that after being taken into the flat Mr Byrne, 'later made a bid to escape down the staircase and was detained and brought back to the flat where he was handcuffed and placed on a settee whilst the search continued.'

However Detective Superintendent Geoff MacDonald, who is investigating the death in custody, said later that Mr Byrne was re-arrested in a nearby bungalow in Scone Close after escaping from initial custody in the flat.

After the drug search in the flat resumed the police statement says Mr Byrne 'apparently got to his feet, went to a window and was seen to fall out of the eighth floor window to the ground below.'

Dean Trafford, who lives nearby, said: 'The police arrested Kevin outside after he ran into an old lady's bungalow just down the road. Instead of handcuffing him to a policeman they had handcuffed his hands together. I understand he was sat on the balcony ledge for a few seconds before he fell and it appeared that he was trying to hang on but lost his grip.'

Only 40 tenants remain in the tower block after the Liverpool Housing Action Trust took possession last year and began a refurbishment programme.

The Home Office, coroner and Police Complaints Authority have been notified of Mr Byrne's death in custody. Dr James Burns, a Home Office pathologist, conducted a post mortem yesterday and concluded that Mr Byrne died from multiple injuries to the head and body. Blood samples have been taken to test for drugs.

Det Supt MacDonald said: 'I extend my deepest sympathy to the family of Mr Byrne, and I will ensure that the matter is fully investigated.'