Two post mortems and still no `cause` of Rashan Charles’s death as coroner gives IPCC time on investigation

The cause of death of a 20-year-old detainee whom an officer tried to prevent from swallowing a package is still unknown.

Aug 17, 2017

The cause of death of a 20-year-old detainee whom an officer tried to prevent from swallowing a package is still unknown. Two post mortems and toxicology reports have now been conducted on Rashan Charles, whose death on July 22 sparked protests and violent clashes with Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) officers outside Stoke Newington police station in east London. The initial Home Office test was followed on Monday (August 14) by a second post mortem with two pathologists – one on behalf of the officers concerned and the other for Mr Rashan`s family. The Independent Police Complaints Commission told Police Professional on Thursday (August 17) that it was still awaiting confirmation, adding: “We have not received formal communication from the pathologist regarding cause of death.” Senior coroner for inner north London, Mary Hassell – sitting at Poplar Coroners Court – told a provisional hearing on Wednesday (August 16) that the IPCC inquiry was the “reason” for the full inquest being delayed. It will take place in June 2018. “It’s my experience that when the IPCC are investigating a death such as this, it’s impossible to have an inquest at the same time,” she added. Mr Charles was a passenger in a vehicle stopped by MPS officers in Dalston, east London. When he made off, one officer chased him into a shop and detained him with the assistance of a member of the public. He was caught on CCTV placing an object in his mouth before being forced to the ground. He fell ill and died later in hospital. The officer called for medical assistance and attempted to remove the package from his throat. The IPCC, under intense pressure after being accused of “fanning the flames” of mistrust and resentment against the service, was blasted by the Metropolitan Police Federation (MPF) for issuing “half a story” in its August 2 statement on forensic analysis revealing Mr Charles had not ingested a controlled substance. MPF chair Ken Marsh stressed that the IPCC handling of the case commentary had led to “more questions than answers” by not identifying the substance that the officer had been trying to prevent Mr Charles from swallowing. Hours later, after being challenged by Police Professional, the IPCC finally revealed the contents of the package ingested by Mr Charles. IPCC Commissioner Cindy Butts said that “given the inflammatory nature of some ongoing speculation” she confirmed the package consisted of a mixture of Paracetamol and caffeine wrapped in plastic. The IPCC, which said it was “looking into the circumstances of Rashan’s death, not investigating Rashan”, is thought to be considering whether the package`s plastic rather than the contents are linked to the fatality. Ms Hassell said the ultimate conclusion on cause of death will fall to a jury, which will base its findings on evidence it hears in court. The inquest hearing is likely to last weeks, the coroner said, and a pre-inquest review will be held on November 15, 2017. The MPS released photographs on Wednesday (August 16) of three people they want to trace after clashes with police on July 28. A peaceful demonstration in Hackney was “used by a small number of people as an opportunity to commit disorder”, it said. Demonstrators blocked Kingsland Road with wheelie bins, mattresses and debris which were later set on fire, and vehicles, a cash machine and a number of windows were damaged. Restaurants and bars pulled down their shutters, locking customers inside, as protesters were pushed down Kingsland High Street and beyond Dalston Kingsland station. The force said no one was seriously hurt, but that an officer sustained an eye injury. Mr Charles’s family has expressed concerns over the “openness and transparency” of the IPCC investigation into his death.

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