Another Black death in psychiatric custody

Another Black death in psychiatric custody

Written by: Harmit Athwal

On May 28, 24-year-old Azrar Ayub, a patient at the secure Edenfield Unit at Prestwich hospital near Manchester was found dead after being sedated and restrained by staff at the hospital.

According to news reports, Azrar, a diagnosed schizophrenic, had been detained at the unit since June 2000. On the day of his death, Azrar was restrained by hospital staff who allege that he had became violent. He was sedated before being isolated in a room. Newspaper reports state that staff going to check on him found him collapsed and he could not be revived.

Azrar’s brother, Sarfraz, went to visit his brother at the unit on the night of his death but was refused entry because Azrar was said to be ‘ill’. He received a phone call four hours later, at midnight, to tell him that his brother had been pronounced dead at 10pm. Sarfraz told a local newspaper, ‘Why wasn’t I allowed to see him? He was still alive when I was at the hospital and they wouldn’t let me see him… I was shocked when I saw his body… he was really badly bruised. Something has gone wrong somewhere and we can’t bring him back… We just want some answers… we want an inquiry. I do not think anyone is taking it seriously, no one is telling us anything.’

The police are investigating Azrar’s death and have confirmed that they have interviewed sixteen nurses and have yet to interview another four members of staff. Once their investigation is completed it will be passed to the coroner, the Health and Safety Executive and the Crown Prosecution Service. An official post mortem has already been carried out and Azrar’s family have employed a specialist in restraint-related injuries to carry out another one. Bolton, Salford and Trafford Mental Health NHS Trust citing ‘patient confidentiality’ told IRR news it was assisting the police and unable to make any further comment save that it offered the family ‘sincere condolences’.

One of the aspects of the case which will attract attention is the way in which Azrar was restrained and for how long. The death comes only three months after the Independent Inquiry into the death of David Bennett was published, recommending that ‘under no circumstances should any patient be restrained in a prone position for a longer period than three minutes.’ Azrar Ayub was detained under the Mental Health Act in 2000 after being convicted of rape.

Related links

IRR News story – Rocky Bennett – killed by institutional racism?

Black deaths in custody – IRR factfile


United Families and Friends Campaign

Injustice – a film by Migrant Media

* Deaths in psychiatric custody from 1970-1991 are included in the report, Deadly Silence: Black deaths in custody (1991), available from the Institute of Race Relations.

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

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