“My son died begging police to let him breathe right here in the UK” (The Mirror)


Horrific footage of George Floyd’s death sent a shiver down the spine of one British mum.

Aji Lewis could not bear to watch a clip showing a US police officer kneeling on George’s neck as the 46-year-old gasped: “I can’t breathe.”

For Aji, 70, the words would be too painful to hear – because it was exactly what her son said as he pleaded with cops for his life.

Olaseni, 23, was pinned down by 11 officers after being sectioned at Bethlem Royal Hospital in Beckenham, South London, in 2010.

His brain was starved of oxygen and his life support had to be switched off a few days later.

Seni with his late gran Ivy Taylor. She died three years after the pain of losing him (Image: Aji Lewis)

Olaseni, known as Seni, is among more than 180 people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities who died following contact with police in Britain since 1990.

Research from the charity Inquest showed force or restraint was used twice as often compared to non-BAME deaths. But no police officer has been convicted of murder or manslaughter in any of the cases.

Mum-of-three Aji said: “I can’t watch the George Floyd video, because he is saying the same thing as Seni said: ‘I can’t breathe’.

“This is not something which just happens in America. The fact police officers can kill and get away with it speaks volumes.”

George Floyd repeatedly said ‘I can’t breathe’ as a police officer knelt on his neck

US cop Derek Chauvin is charged with second degree murder over George’s death in Minneapolis. Three colleagues also face charges.

His death sparked global protests. But Aji says few people are aware police brutality is also a UK issue.

Horrifyingly, she only learned the full circumstances surrounding Seni through a journalist.

It took seven years for an inquest jury to conclude “excessive force” was used on the IT student. The jury also ruled the force was “disproportionate and unreasonable”.

Six cops were cleared of gross misconduct. None faced a criminal probe.

Aji went on: “The visit from the journalist began a 10-year nightmare which we are still walking through. Imagine how it made me feel.

“They held Seni face down, hands shackled with two sets of handcuffs and his legs in two sets of restraints.

“They held him over 45 minutes until he went limp. Then, instead of treating him as a medical emergency, they simply walked away. They believed he was faking it.

“They left our son on the floor of a locked room, all but dead. We struggle to comprehend he died simply because police and medical staff failed in their duty to treat him as a human being.

“It might be more of a deterrent if police were genuinely concerned about facing charges. They pretend there isn’t institutional racism in the police, but we all know it’s there.

“Police need to admit mistakes. Officers need to be prosecuted.”

Sean Rigg was held face down in the prone position by officers for seven minutes in 2008(Image: Hickman & Rose Solicitors/PA)

The story is all too familiar to the family of London musician Sean Rigg, 40. He was suffering from a psychotic episode when he was held face down in the prone position by officers for seven minutes in 2008. He died of a cardiac arrest at Brixton police station.

Four years later, an inquest jury ruled the force used was “unsuitable”.

Five officers were cleared of misconduct. Sean’s sister Marcia, 56, said: “After the misconduct case, I said, ‘Police have a licence to kill’. There is no accountability for any wrongdoing so it sends a message officers can act with impunity. Deaths continue unnecessarily.

“No family should have to fight to find out why their loved one died at the hands of the State. It’s draining.”

The list of tragedies goes on.

Joy Gardner died after an immigration raid in Crouch End, North London, in 1993 (Image: PA)

Jamaican student Joy Gardner, 40, died after an immigration raid in Crouch End, North London, in 1993.

She was restrained with handcuffs and leather straps and gagged with 13ft of adhesive tape around her head.

Three officers were charged with manslaughter. None were convicted.

Roger Sylvester died after being restrained in Tottenham and again in hospital
Kingsley Burrell was left face down with a blanket over his head (Image: PA)