Mother dies after collapsing during 'unnecessary' police arrest

Mother dies after collapsing during ‘unnecessary’ police arrest

Exclusive: Husband held in custody for more than seven hours before being allowed to visit hospital

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Sunday 19 July 2020 16:16

A mother has died after collapsing during an arrest that relatives say “didn’t need to happen”.

Tracie Caroline Emily Cooper, 50, did not regain consciousness after the incident at her home in Southampton.

Her life support was turned off days later and a post-mortem found she had died of a bleed on the brain.

Ms Cooper’s husband, Nigel Cross, was held in custody for more than seven hours before being allowed to visit her in hospital.

Hampshire Police officers had entered their home on 18 April to make arrests over an alleged assault and racially aggravated harassment.

“The arrest didn’t need to happen – they had offered to do a voluntary interview,” a source close to the family told The Independent.

“Despite that they burst into the house, arrested Nigel, tried to arrest Tracey and during the course of whatever happened in the kitchen she collapsed.”

Ms Cooper’s 15-year-old son was in the home at the time and she had seven other children.

Sources close to the family said the allegations had been made by relatives as part of an ongoing dispute, and Mr Cross was later released with no further action.

“All Nigel wants is the truth of what happened with his wife,” one said.

“He is devastated, he doesn’t know what to do. They were absolutely devoted to each other, they had been together for 25 years.”

A coroner’s inquest will establish the full circumstances of Ms Cooper’s death and examine any possible contributing factors.

A spokesperson for Hampshire Constabulary said it had referred the incident to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), but the watchdog passed it to the force’s professional standards department to investigate locally.

“We can confirm that on 18 April, a woman in her 50s collapsed at her home address in Landguard Road, Southampton, whilst police were in attendance at the address,” a statement said.

“The woman was taken to hospital where she subsequently died.

“This investigation remains ongoing at this time and as such it would be inappropriate for us to comment further.”

The Transform Justice group said the incident was part of the wider “overuse” of police custody.

Director Penelope Gibbs said police had been told to take people into cells “only as a last resort” during the coronavirus pandemic.

Campaigners say police custody is being ‘overused’

“Tracie and Nigel were willing to be interviewed voluntarily by the police about the crimes they were accused of,” she added.

“So there was no need to arrest and try to detain them. Even less need to take Nigel into custody and keep him there while Tracie was at death’s door.”

Ms Gibbs said that detention in custody should be reserved for suspects who pose an “immediate risk” to victims.

Figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request found that only 35 per cent of people detained in England and Wales are charged with an offence.

A report by Transform Justice said that amounted to hundreds of thousands of people being held unnecessarily every year.

“The number of hours suspects wait in detention has increased by four hours in the last ten years,” it added.

“A greater proportion of defendants are released by the court than are released by police – an indication that police detention is overused and sometimes unnecessary.”