Police accused of brutality: Simon Midgley reports on the growing clamour for an inquiry into the death of Jamaican woman in deportation case

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The Independent Online
THE mother of a Jamaican woman who died after collapsing during a struggle with police as she was served with a deportation order yesterday joined a growing chorus of voices - including three Labour MPs - calling for an independent public inquiry into her daughter's death.

Myrna Simpson made her emotional appeal at a press conference in Haringey, north London yesterday. She said that her daughter Joy Gardner, 40, died on Sunday of 'police brutality'. She had been on a life support machine after collapsing at her flat in Hornsey, north London.

Three officers from the Metropolitan Police's deportation squad and two constables from Hornsey served a deportation notice on Ms Gardner last Wednesday. Police say that after she became violent and abusive, Ms Gardner had to be physically restrained.

Subsequently she passed out, stopped breathing and was given mouth-to-mouth resuscitation before being taken to Whittington Hospital.

Yesterday, Mrs Simpson, 55, said her daughter 'had some bruises on her arms, cuts and things on her hands and it felt like her wrist was broken. They did not have to go in with so much force. They went with vengeance in their hearts . . . She was only a defenceless, harmless, helpless woman. They put her on the floor and handcuffed her.'

Ms Gardner's solictor, Djemal Dervish, said that a senior police officer investigating her death had told him that one piece of equipment seized by the investigating team was a leather body belt with attached handcuffs. This can be strapped round a person who is then restrained in the cuffs.

'The senior investigating officer I spoke to on Friday said he had never seen one of these in his life. He was shocked when he saw it,' Mr Dervish said. Scotland Yard had no comment to make yesterday.

Barbara Roche, Labour MP for Hornsey who was Ms Gardner's MP, has called for an independent public inquiry into her death, as have the neighbouring Labour MPs Bernie Grant, of Tottenham, and Jeremy Corbyn, of Islington North.

The Police Complaints Authority has started an inquiry into the death under Assistant Chief Constable James Conlan of Essex Police. Charles Wardle, the immigration minister, has called for a full report on the circumstances leading up to her arrest.

Mr Grant said a public inquiry was needed to establish how Ms Gardner died and to look into the whole question of deportation. 'The deportation squad has been going around heavying people and injuring people in the process. We have evidence of other cases where this has happened.'

Joy Gardner came to Britain in July 1987 from Longbay, Jamaica, on a visitor's visa. In September 1990 she married a Briton of West Indian origin. The couple separated after a month, but a son, Graham, was born in October 1987.

She asked the Home Office for permission to stay in this country on the basis of this marriage in 1990. This was refused in October 1990 and a deportation order was made in October 1991. Applications for permission to stay are only granted if the married couple are living together.

Mr Dervish said yesterday that earlier this year he asked the Home Secretary to revoke the deportation order on the basis of 'compelling compassionate considerations' - namely that her son was born in this country, that she herself had spent six years here and that her mother, two sisters, one brother, three uncles, two aunts and various cousins also lived in Britain.

Mr Dervish said that a male friend had financially supported Ms Gardner, who had been studying for a degree.

Last Wednesday, two hours before Mr Dervish received the letters officially informing him that Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, had declined the appeal, police staged the raid. He said yesterday that it was 'an outrage' that he should have been informed after the police raid, that so much force should have been used and that so many policemen should have been sent to arrest a 40-year-old woman with a five-year-old son.

Mr Grant said yesterday that a picket would be staged outside Hornsey police station at 6pm today, a public meeting would be held tomorrow and a protest march on Saturday.

On 5 October 1985 the death of Cynthia Jarrett, who collapsed during a police raid on her home, was followed by extensive rioting on the Broadwater Farm Estate in Tottenham in which a policeman died. Feelings among many black Londoners had scarcely subsided since the week before when Cherry Groce was accidentally shot and crippled during a police raid on her home, provoking a riot in Brixton.

Yesterday, Mr Grant said: 'We don't want any violence. We don't want any disturbances whatsoever.'

(Photograph omitted)