Hundreds turn up for East London funeral of man who died in police custody ‘tied to hospital trolley’
A packed funeral service bid farewell today to Michael Sweeney, the 38-year-old scaffolder who died in police custody in East London after celebrating news he was going to be a dad.
The rock and football fan’s coffin was draped in a West Ham colours while his favourite music was played at the City of London Crematorium this-afternoon.
The service ended with Eric Clapton’s ‘Tears in Heaven’ and Puff Daddy’s ‘Missing You.’
Canon Michael Ainsworth of St George’s-in-the-East, who conducted the service, told mourners: “Hurt and failure come with death—but let not the manner of Michael’s death cloud the memory of his life.”
Michael’s lifelong pal Daren Way gave a eulogy, then gently placed the distinctive 1970 claret-and-blue Hammers scarf on the coffin before the cremation.
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Michael was celebrating on April 18 that he was going to be a father for the first time when he was arrested at Bethnal Green’s Approach Tavern. He was dead two hours later in police custody at the Royal London Hospital hospital—handcuffed to a trolley lying face down, say his family.
His partner, Alexandra Keating, 31, is expecting their child in November.
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“We did everything together,” she told the East London Advertiser. “He was always making me laugh, always doing things for people. I’ll miss him dearly.”
The long funeral procession had set off from their home at Talwin Street in Bromley-by-Bow with 200 mourners.
Michael knew people from all walks of life. One friend was Jack Ramadan, founder of the Factory East project in Bow that helped keep youths off the streets before bailiffs closed it two months ago.
He recalled: “I’ll miss Michael—especially under the circumstances of his death.”
Another pal was Dean Harding, who Michael helped recover from serious brain injury in 1998. Dean said: “He encouraged me not to give up after my injury and took me to a concert at the London Arena when I was recovering—he helped get my life back.”
Michael’s body was released last Friday, four weeks after his death which has led to an inquiry by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
His niece Lisa Bishop told the Advertiser: “I’ve received his medical report which says he was brought into the A&E and was handcuffed to a trolley.
“Michael was held face down on a bed with seven officers over him. Pub staff told us he had calmed down before the police arrived—police were very heavy handed. We want to know what went on in the police van and how he came to have a burst eye.”
They have taken 13 witness statements from customers and staff who were at the Approach Tavern the night he was arrested.