Met admit black victim `was not aggressive'

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THE METROPOLITAN Police has been forced to issue an apology for issuing a misleading public statement about the behaviour of a black man who died after being restrained by eight police officers.

Scotland Yard apologised yesterday to the family of Roger Sylvester for the distress it caused by claiming in a press release that he had been behaving in an "aggressive and vociferous" manner. Dick Fedorcio, the Met's director of public affairs, said the force now accepted that this was not true.

At the time the statement was issued, Mr Sylvester was on a life support machine. He never regained consciousness and his death is now the subject of an investigation under the supervision of the Police Complaints Authority.

Yesterday Mr Sylvester's brother, Victor, said the family was still not happy with the comments made by the police. "The family demanded from the outset a clear correction by the Metropolitan Police of the image left in the public mind by their press statement. We are really distressed that no proper correction or public apology was issued by the police at the time, particularly as the errors in the statement have been reproduced time and again in the media," he said.

Inquest, a group which campaigns against deaths in custody, accused the Met's spin doctors of placing in the public domain "partial, inaccurate and deeply prejudicial information".

The comments made in the police press release were attributed to a 999 caller. But yesterday Mr Fedorcio said: "The 999 call ... on 11 January did not describe Roger Sylvester as behaving in either an aggressive or vociferous manner."

Mr Sylvester, 30, died in January after being held under the Mental Health Act outside his home in Tottenham, north London. He collapsed in hospital after being restrained by officers and was placed on a life support machine which was switched off a week later.