"I could hear the thud of the blows," Susan Price recalled. The mother- of-three, who wiped tears from her eyes as she graphically described how suspected burglar Wayne Douglas had been pounced on like "dogs getting hold of a cat", said she had no idea how many times he was struck.
"But it seemed to go on for ages. He was screaming. I was very distressed at what was happening."
Suddenly his cries stopped, and minutes later she heard the handcuffed 25-year-old "whimpering" as he was carried unmoving, like a "trussed up chicken" out of a children's park in Brixton, south west London, where he had been caught.
Former postman Mr Douglas was then thrown face down onto the floor of a police van "like a sack of potatoes".
That caused the man to cry out in pain and when a police officer then knelt on his back he once more shouted: "Aargh!".
"There was nothing that man was doing that justified him being treated in that way," said Ms Price told the jury.
She was giving evidence on the fourth day of the inquest into Mr Douglas's death just over an hour after his arrest on 5 December last year.
Two weeks later a protest rally outside Brixton Police Station sparked widespread rioting in the area which left a pounds 1 million trail of damage.
The hearing at Southwark Crown Court has heard that a hunt for witnesses to evidence surrounding Mr Douglas's arrest met "a wall of silence and fear" from local residents reluctant to help police.
Ms Price said she, too, had been "frightened" of the police and had not wanted to come to court. This prompted coroner Sir Montague Levine to assure her she had nothing to worry about.
The hearing was adjourned until tomorrow.Reuse content