G20 victim 'not confrontational'

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The Independent Online

Ian Tomlinson was not being confrontational at all before he was shoved to the ground by a police officer, the US businessman who filmed the incident told an inquest today.

The newspaper seller had his hands in his pockets and had turned away from the line of officers when he was struck with a baton and "violently shoved" to the ground, Christopher La Jaunie said.

Mr La Jaunie, who was in the UK on business, said he did not film the officer after the attack because he was scared he "would come after me".

Asked by counsel to the inquest Alison Hewitt about Mr Tomlinson's demeanour before the push, he said: "He was not confrontational at all.

"He had his hands in his pockets. It was clear now he was not going to be able to get through so he turned his back to walk away.

"Once his back was turned... a push is a very polite term, he was rather violently shoved.

"His hands were in his pockets when he flew forward. He was unable to break his fall.

"His head goes out of frame but I saw it, he hit the ground, his head hit the ground."

Asked if he saw who pushed Mr Tomlinson, he said: "I saw a police officer with no badge and a balaclava and riot gear. I saw who it was but I couldn't see his face."

He said he continued to film Mr Tomlinson on his point-and-shoot camera, adding of the police officer: "Quite frankly, I was afraid that if I focused my attention on him and started following him, he would come after me."

Mr Tomlinson's collapse on the pavement on the fringes of angry protests in London on April 1 2009 became global news after Mr La Jaunie's video footage challenged the original official version of events.

Pathologist Dr Freddy Patel found he died of natural causes but the amateur video later showed the 47-year-old being pushed to the ground by an officer.

He died after staggering about 100 yards and falling to the ground in Cornhill, near St Michael's Alley.

Pc Simon Harwood escaped prosecution but faces being sacked under misconduct proceedings.

Mr La Jaunie, a managing director from New York, told the inquest, at the International Dispute Resolution Centre in Fleet Street, London, that he was on Cornhill because a colleague, who was in the UK for the first time, wanted to see what was going on.

He said: "Once the police had brought the dogs out, there was more an air of fear and people started to back away from that line.

"A few people dared to go close. I saw Mr Tomlinson wandering very close to that line. He was obviously trying to get through. That's what caught my attention."

Mr La Jaunie said it looked as though Mr Tomlinson was trying to negotiate his way past the police cordon.

He said: "Most people understood that the line was not crossable but he was just trying to get through.

"My impression of him was that he certainly wasn't involved with what was going on. He was not a protester.

"It looked to me (like) he was just trying to get somewhere.

"He was just caught in the crowd and just wanted to get out of there."

He said he was "moving slowly" and added: "I'm not sure he was really engaged with the protest itself. I think he was just determined to be on his way."

Mr La Jaunie, who was filming from about 25ft away, said he focused on Mr Tomlinson because he was "getting very close to the police and they did not look accommodating to someone approaching them".

He continued: "He was facing the police and basically trying to negotiate. He was trying to get there and being turned away.

"Just by the hand gestures, it looked like he was trying to explain to them 'I need to get over here' and then (he was being) refused.

"He turned his back to the police and started to walk away and that's when he was pushed."

Mr La Jaunie, who was in the UK for a conference, said a short while after the incident he saw Mr Tomlinson on the ground.

He said: "I saw him lying on his back. He was very unwell, somewhat ashen.

"He looked like he was about to pass out."

The police arrived on the scene and he was moved on.

Earlier, the inquest heard from Pc Andrew Hayes who described how Pc Harwood was involved in another incident that afternoon in which he was surrounded by a large "hostile crowd".

Pc Hayes said his colleague was trying to arrest a man suspected of damaging a police van.

The inquest heard Pc Hayes opened his door just as Pc Harwood led the man past the vehicle and the suspect collided with the door.

There was a "loud bang" at which point video footage shows the crowd apparently turning on the officer, shouting and jeering and surging after him down the road.

The suspect managed to wriggle free before a line of officers drove the crowd away.

The inquest heard both men were assigned as drivers with the Territorial Support Group (TSG) and would normally be expected to stay with their vehicles.

But Pc Hayes said his colleague tried to make an arrest after he saw a man crouching at the back of one of their vans.

Matthew Ryder QC, for the Tomlinson family, asked whether Pc Harwood spoke to Pc Hayes later about using a baton strike against a middle-aged man or pushing a man to the floor.

Pc Hayes said: "No."

Mr La Jaunie, who believed Pc Harwood used "excessive force" when he pushed Mr Tomlinson, said his colleague told him about the fatality during the protests as they made their way to Heathrow airport.

He said he realised Mr Tomlinson was the likely victim and contacted the media when there was no mention of him being pushed.

"The story that had come out was that he just died of natural causes, completely unrelated to this," he said.

"In my opinion that footage was contradicting the story."

Mr La Jaunie, who works for an asset management firm, said that before the incident the crowd was mostly behaving and co-operating.

"Once the dogs came I think people really calmed down because they were afraid of them," he said.

Mr Ryder asked: "Did (Mr Tomlinson's) manner seem in any way threatening or aggressive?"

He replied: "No."

He added: "It seemed quite obvious most of the protesters were really young, were dressed differently and were more engaged with what was going on.

"He just looked like he was lost in the crowd and trying to get somewhere."

Patrick Gibbs QC, for Pc Harwood, asked Mr La Jaunie about the statement he made to the IPCC after Mr Tomlinson's death.

Mr Gibbs said: "You say this, he looked disorientated and you got the impression he was intoxicated. He approached the police line and bumped along trying to get through."

Mr La Jaunie replied: "Yes."

Mr Gibbs continued: "You say you couldn't understand why Mr Tomlinson was getting so close to the police line. You thought that they would see this as some kind of threat. Why did you think that the police might see him as a threat?"

Mr La Jaunie said: "The rest of the crowd was moving away from the line and one person was moving towards the line."

The inquest heard Mr La Jaunie's original statement also stated: "It wasn't an uncommon occurrence. Other people had been pushed over or hit with batons when they tried to push through the police shields. This didn't seem unreasonable to keep them back."

Mr La Jaunie told the inquest: "I think if you approach a police officer and you throw a bottle at him he will respond accordingly."

He added: "There is a difference between lunging forward towards the police line and moving away from the police line which Mr Tomlinson was doing."

He said he believed the police had already succeeded in moving Mr Tomlinson away when he was pushed and added: "My opinion was that he (Pc Harwood) used excessive force."

When Pc Harwood saw the footage of the push he responded "My God, that's me", the inquest heard.

Pc Alex Jackaman, the third of the three TSG carrier drivers, said he was sitting next to Pc Harwood in their police station in Catford on April 8 when the footage began playing on a television in the corner.

He said: "Pc Harwood was sitting next to me and his reaction was 'My God, that's me'.

"I thought he was joking. I said something along the lines of 'It couldn't have been you. You were with me and Pc Hayes that day and we were nowhere near a dog unit'.

"He said 'No, that's me' in a serious voice. The way he said it you could tell he was telling the truth. It was him."

Mr Gibbs took the officer through his original statement.

The inquest heard the belief at the time was that an officer from Hackney had been identified as the one who pushed Mr Tomlinson.

The inquest heard Pc Harwood's supervising officer, a police inspector, who was also present when the footage was playing, told him "no it's not".