Paul Coker, 32, died on 6 August 2005 in a police cell in Plumstead, South east London, just two hours after being arrested for causing a breach of the peace.
It was reported to the Coker family that Paul had been restrained by police officers but an initial post mortem was inconclusive as to the cause of death. A second post mortem has been ordered by the family. The Independent Police Complaints Commission is now carrying out an inquiry into his death.
It appears that fifteen police officers called at the flat of Paul’s girlfriend, Lucy, following a disturbance. Paul’s sister has said that Lucy tried to defuse the situation – and tried to get to Paul who was surrounded by officers. But she was led away to a downstairs flat from where she reportedly heard Paul screaming at the police to ‘let me go’ and ‘you’re killing me.’ Another woman reportedly said that Paul was not struggling as he was carried out by the police, held by his arms and legs.
The organisation Inquest, which is working with the Coker family and their lawyers at the Deighton Guedella firm, believes that Paul’s death raises concerns over restraint techniques and associated dangers as well as the level of care, checks and medical intervention he received at Plumstead police station. Paul’s mother has been upset that, though he died at 6.35am, Lucy was not told of the death till five hours later and the family were not informed till 3pm.
Paul Coker had won a compensation case against the Metropolitan Police six years ago and a second legal action against the Prison Service was pending.
Ten days after the death, a candle-lit vigil was held outside the police station at 200 Plumstead High Street. The family remembered ‘compassionate, thoughtful and kind-hearted’ Paul who had a distinctive sense of humour and loved playing with his nephews and nieces. ‘We were proud and honoured to have him as a son, brother and friend’, read the family’s statement.