Man held by police 'unlawfully killed'

Arrest death: Inquest jury told of 31 injuries to victim's body

BY JASON BENNETTO

Crime Correspondent

An Irishman who died shortly after he pleaded with five policeman, who had pinned him to the ground, to release him, saying "I can't breathe, you win, you win", was unlawfully killed, an inquest jury ruled yesterday.

Campaigners immediately called for the Metropolitan Police officers involved to be prosecuted and criticised the Crown Prosecution Service for failing to take any action.

The inquest heard claims that Richard O'Brien, 37, a 19-and-a-half stone market trader from Dulwich, south London, was pushed and racially abused while being arrested on Easter Monday last year.

The police said that he was drunk and disorderly outside the English Martyrs Club in Walworth. His family said he was waiting for a taxi.

He fell to the ground with five police officers who held him there with his face to the pavement while one of them, Constable Richard Ilett, knelt on his back.

The jury heard that his 14-year-old son, also called Richard, was slapped and arrested by another officer after pleading with them to check on his father, who had shouted: "Let me up, let me up, I can't breathe. You win."

A police officer is said to have replied: "We always win."

Pathologist Dr Vesna Djurovic said that Mr O'Brien had 31 sites of injury on his body, including cuts and bruising to his face, a dislodged tooth and fractured ribs.

He had pinpoint bleeding suggestive of haemorrhaging after blood vessels on his face burst.

Dr Djurovic gave the cause of death as "postural asphyxia following a struggle against restraint."

After being held on the ground, Mr O'Brien was carried to a police van by six officers. He was then said to have been half-pushed and half-dragged into the vehicle.

His wife, Alison, who was already seated in the van with their son Richard, recalled an officer shouting: "We can't get the big fat Paddy in," before another grabbed him by the hair or head.

PC Ilett insisted that Mr O'Brien had been drunk and struggled violently on arrest.

He said that he had not seen any of the 31 injuries Mr O'Brien sustained and said he had shown nothing but concern for him.

Patrick O'Connor, counsel representing the family, held up a photograph of Mr O'Brien showing his bloodstained and battered face and asked the officer: "Does this show your concern?"

Police officers tried in vain to resuscitate Mr O'Brien after he was taken out of the van at Walworth police station.

Sir Montague Levine, the Southwark coroner, said the case had shown an "appalling lack of instruction" in the training of police officers in restraint techniques.

He went on to recommend the regular retraining of officers and improved education in methods of monitoring individuals involved in restraint.

His widow, Alison O'Brien, said after the verdict: "I'm delighted. The truth has finally got out now and after 18 months someone actually believes our story."

Deborah Coles, of the pressure group Inquest, added: "We are going to campaign to make sure these officers are brought to account for their conduct. This should never have gone to an inquest but should have been a criminal trial from the start."

In a statement yesterday, Scotland Yard said: "The Metropolitan Police Service deeply regrets the death of Mr O'Brien and the distress caused to his family."

Scotland Yard is sending a new report on the death to the Director of Public Prosecutions for reconsideration of whether criminal proceedings should take place.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
football
Life and Style
Jack Cooksey goes for the grand unveiling - moments before dropping his new iPhone 6 on the floor
iphone launch
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Life and Style
Customers look at the new iPhones on display at the launch of the new Apple iPhone 6 and iphone 6 plus at the Apple IFC store in Hong Kong
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Primary Supply Teacher - Loughborough

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Are you a Teacher looking fo...

Primary General Cover Teachers

Negotiable: Randstad Education Leicester: Are you a Newly Qualified Teacher lo...

Part Time Primary Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Part Time Primary TeacherOur...

Science Technician

£7 - £8 per hour: Randstad Education Cheshire: The Job:School Science Technici...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week