Bid to contact family of pensioner who died after being arrested and handcuffed at his Bethnal Green home
PUBLISHED: 14:00 24 January 2019 | UPDATED: 07:46 25 January 2019
Investigators are trying to contact the family of a 72-year-old "reclusive" pensioner that neighbours said confronted drug addicts who died after being arrested and handcuffed at his home in Bethnal Green.
An inquiry into his death in custody has been started by the police watchdog after the man fell ill when he was handcuffed by officers at his first-floor flat at Allison House in Gibraltar Walk, off Bethnal Green Road.
He was arrested on Monday morning “on suspicion of malicious communication”, but was then taken to hospital—where he died two hours later.
The investigation is being carried out by the Independent Office for Police Conduct as a “post-incident procedure”.
The coroner has now been informed, a spokesman confirmed today, but the man “hasn’t been formally identified as we have only just managed to trace who his next of kin are and are trying to contact them”.
Video footage from police body cameras worn by the officers is being examined as part of the investigation. The officers have all made statements after being interviewed.
Allison House is plagued by drug addicts congregating in the stairwell who neighbours say would be confronted by the pensioner they knew as ‘Peter’ on the first floor.
“I find it strange that he was arrested,” his upstairs neighbour Tom told the East London Advertiser. “He was a strange old bird, but didn’t seem like a rowdy type of chap. Peter was a loner—I never saw him with anyone else.”
The flat where the arrest was made has heavy window bars and a high wrought iron gate across the front-door with warning notices discouraging callers without an appointment or junk mail being put through the letter box.
A radical anti-police notice in the window warns “no-one likes a rat” and declares “don’t snitch”.
An anti-discrimination campaign poster at the window demands “no place for hate” on religion, gender or sexual identity. There are also flyers showing the local MP and a promotion for Brick Lane Book Shop.
Neighbours recall the pensioner’s conflict with drug users hanging around on the stairs each night. One told the paper: “He was confronting people in the area doing drugs and felt like he had to do something.
“He was outside the sweetshop in the main road in an argument over people taking drugs in the doorway and had come back to his flat when police turned up at his door. I’m just in shock that the guy’s gone, dying in custody.”
An ambulance was called at 11.13am to Gibraltar Walk. An incident response officer and an advanced paramedic were also sent, the London Ambulance Service confirmed. He was treated at the scene before being taken hospital “as a priority”.
The police complaints watchdog has confirmed its “thorough and independent” investigation is at an early stage, which will be reviewing all body worn video footage and be speaking to witnesses to establish exactly what happened.