Original Article can be read here at: Evening Standard.com
Peter Dominiczak and Katie Linsell 15.09.10
The family of a student who died after he was forcibly restrained by up to seven police officers at a psychiatric hospital today called for a “rigorous, far-reaching investigation”.
Olaseni Lewis, 23, from South Norwood, collapsed and slipped into a coma after his airways were restricted at the Bethlem Royal Hospital in Beckenham on August 31.
Inquest, an organisation speaking on behalf of the Kingston University student’s family, today called his death “deeply disturbing”.
The incident, which is being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, only came to light following inquiries by the Evening Standard. It emerged today that Mr Lewis had no history of mental illness but had suddenly started “behaving strangely”.
He was “alternating between calm and agitated phases”, his family said, prompting them to take him to the psychiatric hospital.
Mr Lewis, who was taking a Master’s degree in IT and business management, was then admitted as a vulnerable voluntary patient.
But within hours of leaving him, Mr Lewis is said to have become violent and staff called in police to restrain him, a normal practice at the hospital. However, nurses are said to have been “horrified” at the way officers acted when they arrived.
The Standard has been told that several nurses who witnessed the incident later logged it as a “violent restraint”, meaning they thought inappropriate force was used.
Mr Lewis’s mother, Ajibola, 60, a lawyer who was born in Nigeria, has been left “utterly devastated” by her son’s death. His father, Conrad, an engineer who is separated from Mr Lewis’s mother, paid tribute to his son, who was known as Seni.
He wrote on Facebook, alongside a photograph of him: “This [is] my son Seni Lewis, 23-years-old with a master’s in ICT & management, he died September 3. And [I] also lost my father, his grandfather, on September 7. May their souls rest easy.”
One of Mr Lewis’s neighbours, who did not want to be named, said: “Seni was a lovely kid. He was always smiling, always saying hello to everyone. There was never any trouble with him at all. He was just focused on his degree.”
The IPCC said: “Police restrained Mr Lewis at the request of hospital staff. During the restraint Mr Lewis became passive and it then became apparent that he was seriously unwell.”
An ambulance was called and Mr Lewis was given first aid. Croydon University Hospital confirmed he was brain-dead on September 3, and his life support was turned off the next day.
No officers were suspended or placed on restricted duties after the incident. Hospital chiefs have launched a separate inquiry.
Deborah Coles, of Inquest, said: “This is a deeply disturbing death and it is vital both for the family and the public that there is a rigorous, far-reaching investigation.”
Scotland Yard said it could not comment because the case had been referred to the IPCC.
A post-mortem examination was inconclusive and toxicology tests are being carried out.