Police say Menson 'was in a trance'

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THE POLICE officers who first found the musician Michael Menson after he had been set on fire explained yesterday why they had dismissed his wounds as self-inflicted.

THE POLICE officers who first found the musician Michael Menson after he had been set on fire explained yesterday why they had dismissed his wounds as self-inflicted.

Mr Menson, 30, had been attacked and his anorak set alight. The flames had torn through his clothing, leaving him with such terrible burns that he died in hospital 16 days later, on February 13 1997. Mario Pereira and Charalambous Constantinou, both 26, deny murdering the Ghanaian diplomat's son.

Yesterday the two police officers who found the dazed and injured musician by the side of the North Circular Road in north London admitted that they had classified the incident as "illness in the street" despite Mr Menson's claims that he had been attacked.

Detective Constable James Dunn, speaking on the fourth day of the Old Bailey murder trial, said: "He was completely naked. He had burns that were still smoking from the top of his buttocks to the base of his neck. He was in a trance, I would say. I spoke to him and he never made any response whatsoever.

"I just thought he was a man behaving extremely strangely and bizarrely. A man who had suffered those injuries would have been screaming in agony, they were so bad."

He added: "I asked him the question, 'What has happened to you?' and he just looked at me as though I wasn't there."

The court had earlier heard that Mr Menson had developed psychiatric problems in his later years which were sometimes characterised by trance-like states. Because of his mental-health history, the officers concluded that he had set fire to himself, and they classified the incident as an "illness in the street".

The second officer, PC Joanna Walshe, told the court the young man had said to her straight away that he had been attacked, though his words appeared confused.

"He mumbled. He never looked at me when he spoke. He spoke very quietly and the words were muttered."

PC Walshe, who suffered a convulsion in her sleep as a result of what she had seen that night, remained off duty until February 12. She failed to report her conversation with the injured man until the 13th, the day of his death.

The scene was not preserved until 12 hours after Mr Menson was found, when his family insisted he had been attacked by racists.

Kwesi Menson, 34, explained how his younger brother had told him as he lay dying in hospital that he had been attacked by white youths aged 18 to 19.

"I asked how it happened. He replied, 'Some boys put me on fire'."

Mr Menson added: "I asked him if the police asked him at the scene how he got his injury. He replied 'no'."

He fought back tears as he added: "Michael was very health-conscious, clean living, very religious, upright, upstanding, very fair and just."

Kwesi Menson was adamant his brother would never have committed suicide, despite his mental-health problems.

Mr Pereira and Mr Constantinou, both of Edmonton, north London, also pleaded not guilty to a joint charge of perverting the course of justice with Husseyin Abdullah, 50, also from Edmonton. Mr Constantinou has admitted one charge of perverting the course of justice.

The third alleged killer, 22-year-old Ozguy Cevat, had fled to Northern Cyprus, the court was told. The trial continues.

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