Blunkett demands inquiry into death of ex-soldier in custody

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The Independent Online

The Home Secretary, David Blunkett, has asked the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) to review the case of a black former paratrooper whose death in handcuffs on a police station floor was screened last night in a BBC documentary.

The Home Secretary, David Blunkett, has asked the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) to review the case of a black former paratrooper whose death in handcuffs on a police station floor was screened last night in a BBC documentary.

Christopher Alder's death in 1998 is one of the most controversial in police custody. CCTV footage shown last night and at the trial of five officers charged with his manslaughter, depicts Mr Alder heaving his last breaths in front of the policemen. He received no aid and monkey-like noises were detected on an audio tape as he lay dead, his trousers around his ankles, at Hull's central Queens Gardens police station.

An inquest recorded a verdict of unlawful killing in 2000 but the trial of the officers collapsed over conflicting medical evidence. After asking the IPCC to review the case, Mr Blunkett expressed regret at the distress caused to the family. But he said: "Public inquiries in such circumstances cannot be triggered by TV footage of material which was already known during the investigations."

But the Alder family's solicitor, Ruth Bundey, who asked Mr Blunkett for a public inquiry before last night's Rough Justice programme, accused him of making judgements about the case before seeing the documentary. The IPCC, which has been asked to consider "lessons to be learnt" from the case, will take written submissions, rather than call witnesses. The Alder family has never heard the officers' accounts of the death, since they exercised their right not to testify at the inquest and the trial collapsed before they gave evidence.

Humberside Police said it welcomed the request by the Home Secretary. But the force's deputy chief constable, Steve Love, said that the video footage, which his force had refused to release, ought not to have been shown on television.

Mr Alder's sister Janet said showing the footage was necessary. The family's fight for answers began with the seven-week inquest - the longest over a death in police custody. Despite the verdict and the officers' failure to have it overturned, the Crown Prosecution Service initially insisted that manslaughter charges would not be brought. After the family's lawyers submitted fresh medical reports, the CPS changed its position.