Death of Sheku Bayoh - Statement by Aamer Anwar

Statement issued at the Press Conference in Edinburgh on Thursday 14 May by Aamer Anwar, solicitor for the family of Sheku Bayoh.

Good morning- my name is Aamer Anwar- I am the solicitor acting on behalf the family of Sheku Bayoh.

Sat on my right is Collette Bell the partner of Sheku and mother to his youngest son Isaac who is only 4 months old. On my left is Kadi Johnson the elder sister of Sheku, both of them will speak this morning in what are extremely difficult circumstances.

Just to advise those who shorthand skills are not that great- copies of the press release and statements given by everyone today, with spellings of names will be handed out by Tony at the back.

I'd like to start by making a statement on behalf the family. Sheku Bayoh was a well-liked, peaceful and healthy young man who at the age of 31 had no previous history of violence.

It would appear he left his home sometime between 7 and 7.30am walking an approximate distance of a mile.

The family is advised that police officers who were in the midst of a shift change at Kirkcaldy Police Office responded to an alert following calls from members of the public.

We are advised that some six police cars went to the scene and that a minimum of 9 uniformed police officers engaged with Mr Bayoh. Of course any use of force must at all times be lawful, necessary and proportionate in the circumstances.

Reports of any officer having been stabbed are simply untrue and Mr Bayoh was detained and  restrained with handcuffs to the rear and  leg restraints, following which he lost consciousness.

CPR was attempted at the scene, an ambulance called and he was officially pronounced dead at Victoria hospital at 9.04 am.

Following Sheku's death five different versions of events were given to the family by Police Scotland officers over the course of ten hours until they were finally told he had died in police custody, that is a matter of grave concern.

Sensitive and thorough handling of the investigation in the 'golden hours' following the death is critical to evidence gathering and setting the direction and quality of the investigation to follow- the family has grave concerns with regards to what happened on Sunday.

Furthermore the family does not understand why the officers involved in engaging with Sheku Bayoh were not immediately suspended without prejudice after his death.

It is a matter of wider public concern that officers remain at their desks or in contact with the public pending the outcome of the investigation into a death in custody.

For the Chief Constable to suspend the officers without prejudice is not a question of pre­judging the outcome of the investigation but ensures neutrality, integrity of the investigation, transparency as well as protecting officers involved in such incidents.

The Bayoh family understands that neither PIRC nor the Lord Advocate can enforce such a decision and would strongly urge Chief Constable Stephen House to take full control of the situation.

The family welcomed the Lord Advocate's instruction last on Tuesday to PIRC to take over the whole investigation into the death of Sheku Bayoh.

However they were saddened to learn that some 11 days after Sheku's death that Police Scotland has still not provided all the essential information to PIRC's investigation team.

This approach simply beggars belief and prolongs the agony of Sheku's family.

I would strongly urge Police officers to co-operate with the investigation to help provide Mr Bayoh's family, the Crown Office and the PIRC with accurate information about how and why Mr Bayoh died.

The family are trying to remain open minded but neither the Crown pathologists or our own independent pathologists can reach a conclusion into the cause of death until a full account of what happened that morning is given by the Police Officers who detained Mr Bayoh.

There has been a great deal of speculation in both the papers and the local community, none of which is helpful in a live inquiry.

I would strongly urge Police officers to co-operate with the investigation to help provide Mr Bayoh's family, the Crown Office and the PIRC with accurate information about how and why Mr Bayoh died.

The family retain full confidence in the PIRC and would urge both police officers and members of the public who have information to come forward and fully cooperate with PIRC's investigation.

The findings of the post mortem are not complete and could take several more weeks to complete.

We have instructed some of the UK's most eminent pathologists to act independently on behalf of the family; they will offer every assistance to the Lord Advocate's team as we are aware that such deaths in custody are a rare occurrence in Scotland.

Today the family are putting their total faith and trust in the Lord Advocate and PIRC. There are many grave concerns that the family will express in private to the Lord Advocate later on this morning which cannot be mentioned due to a live inquiry.

Crown Office, Police Scotland and PIRC must now act decisively to restore confidence and satisfy the need for a robust and demonstrably independent investigation.

Nobody should be allowed to evade accountability or frustrate the investigation process and Sheku Bayoh's family will not rest until they have the truth.

Also see:

Statement by Sheku Bayoh's sister, Kadiiartu Johnson

Statement by Collette Bell, Sheku Bayoh's partner