Police officers stand trial after paranoid schizophrenic dies in handcuffs

Officers only realised Colin Holt had choked on his own vomit when they went to lift him up

A paranoid schizophrenic who absconded from hospital died in handcuffs because police officers failed to spot he had stopped breathing after he was forced face-down into a chair, a court heard.

One police officer held down Colin Holt, 52, using the weight of his body while colleagues scooped up escaped fish from a broken tank inside the dead man’s flat following a struggle to detain him, a jury was told.

Officers only realised Mr Holt had choked on his own vomit when they went to lift him up and take him to a police van for his return to hospital, Maidstone Crown Court was told.

Paramedics worked for twenty minutes to try to revive Mr Holt but he was found to have died from “positional asphyxia” – a danger well-known to the police who were given training on the subject every year. A pathologist concluded that Mr Holt struggled “for some time” in a position that meant he would have struggled to breathe.

Kent police constables Maurice Leigh, 54, and Neil Bowdery, 29 - two officers responsible for watching Mr Holt – are accused of misconduct in public office by acting with “reckless indifference” towards the mentally ill man. They both deny the charge.

Maidstone Crown Court heard yesterday that Mr Leigh and another colleague were called within minutes of Mr Holt being reported missing from Medway Hospital on August  30, 2010, after being detained two days earlier.

The officers were sent to his flat in Gillingham, Kent, where they confronted by an aggressive Mr Holt who shoved Mr Leigh’s colleague into a fish tank that broke and water started pouring out.

After a struggle, Mr Holt – described as obese and on medication for his mental health – was forced to kneel down with his hands cuffed behind his back, said Duncan Penny, counsel for the prosecution.

In his statement made two months later, Mr Leigh said: “In order to contain Holt I was using my shoulder against his shoulder and the weight of my body to keep him down for the time needed to return him to his original position”, the court heard.

“From trying to get up, Colin Holt appeared to resign himself gradually to the fact that he was going back to hospital... the force he was able to use was diminished because he was handcuffed.”

Mr Leigh called for back-up and other officers turned up and tried to scoop the fish into a bucket and turn off the electricity because of the water sloshing around the floor.

When one officer asked Mr Holt where he could find his fuse box, Mr Leigh told him: “Don’t waste your time… I wouldn’t bother, he’s out cold,” Mr Penny told the court.

Neil Bowdery was left to restrain Mr Holt when his colleague went for treatment for an injured hand. Mr Bowdery is alleged to have told colleagues that Mr Holt was pretending to be unconscious, but the officer has denied making the statement.

“You will have to consider whether in the period leading up to that remark, Pc Bowdery was in reality neglecting his duty,” Mr Penny told jurors.

“Given the position in which Mr Holt had been being restrained - that is, face down into the chair - such an observation indicates that Mr Holt was not being cared for in the way he should have been.”

Kent police said that both men had received training on positional asphyxia within six months of the incident, the court heard.

Officers realised that Mr Holt had vomited and appeared not to be breathing when they prepared to move him to the police van. He was laid on the floor and his handcuffs removed but efforts to revive him were unsuccessful.

The case continues.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
News
news
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
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