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‘He needed help’: Family of Black man who died after restraint by police speak out

Exclusive: Godrick Osei died in July shortly after officers arrived at a care home where he was suffering a mental health crisis. The watchdog is investigating – but all officers involved remain on active duty

Nadine White
Race Correspondent
Tuesday 03 January 2023 11:05 GMT
Godrick Osei, 35, died in Truro, Cornwall
Godrick Osei, 35, died in Truro, Cornwall (Osei family)

The family of a vulnerable Black man who died after being arrested and restrained during a mental health crisis have spoken out about his death.

Godrick Osei died on 3 July after police were called to a care home in Truro, Cornwall, where the 35-year-old was hiding in a cupboard in the early hours.

The father of two had fled the flat he was sharing with his partner, experiencing a psychotic episode and expressing “paranoid thoughts”, his family said. Osei himself called the police while care home staff also rang 999.

Up to seven officers from Devon and Cornwall Police arrived at about 2.30am and arrested Osei before paramedics were called at 2.49am. Osei died a short time afterwards.

Family photo: Godrick and Lewison Osei as children (Osei family)

The death is being investigated by the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC). Osei’s family, who have watched police bodycam footage surrounding his death, say Osei called for help from the officers, who instead forced their way into the cupboard where he was hiding, with a number of them restraining him within a small space.

Younger sister Lewison Osei said: “Godrick meant no harm to anyone – he was a big, gentle giant; a caring guy who was always trying to do things for others, for his kids. In addition to his two children, he was a father figure to his girlfriend’s two-year-old daughter. That’s the kind of man he was.

“He needed help. Our brother should not have died that day.”

Osei, originally from east London, had been diagnosed with anxiety and depression, and also had suffered from drug addiction. In the days before his death, community mental health workers who assessed Osei said he was also exhibiting signs of a personality disorder.

His sister Maryann added: “This still doesn’t feel real. My brother’s gone and why? We don’t know.”

None of the officers involved in the incident have been suspended or subject to an investigation.

Maryann, left, and Lewison (Osei family)

Jodie Anderson, of charity Inquest, which is supporting the family, said: “The circumstances of Godrick’s death raise serious questions about police use of force, at a time of increased public scrutiny. It also once again highlights the issues surrounding police responses to mental health crisis.

“It is a matter of public interest that all officers involved are subject to a full and fearless investigation and where necessary, held to account for their actions. The officers involved remain as witnesses to this investigation, not subjects of it.

“They are on active duty and are not yet subject to criminal or even conduct investigations. This cannot be right.”

The investigation into Osei’s death is ongoing (Osei family)

Cyrilia Knight, of Saunders Law, which is representing the family, told The Independent: “This is a tragic death of a vulnerable, young, Black man in circumstances which require the greatest scrutiny. Vulnerable people in mental health crisis are particularly susceptible to death following restraint.

“The family need answers to establish whether things could have been done differently to avoid this tragedy”.

The IOPC said its investigation was progressing, adding: “At this stage, there is no indication that any of the officers involved may have breached police professional standards or committed a criminal offence, a decision that is regularly reviewed. We are carrying out a thorough, independent investigation that is carefully examining the interaction police officers had with the man and whether their actions were necessary, proportionate and reasonable in the situation they encountered.”

A Devon and Cornwall police said it is supporting the officers who attended the incident and are being treated as witnesses in the IOPC probe.

“The circumstances surrounding this tragic incident continue to be the subject of an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) and our thoughts remain with the family and friends of the man who died,” a force spokesperson said.

“Devon and Cornwall Police continue to fully cooperate with the IOPC and welcomes a thorough and transparent independent investigation. We are unable to comment further on the circumstances until the IOPC releases its findings.”

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