Bury St Edmunds: Inquest heards evidence from detention officer who checked on detainee

Coroner Peter Dean

Coroner Peter Dean

A former detention officer has said he informed a sergeant about the change in condition of a detainee who later died, an inquest has heard.

Yesterday, the inquest continued into the death of Robert Edwards, 55, of Culford Road, Bury St Edmunds, who died in hospital days after he became unconscious in his cell at Bury police station. He died in the West Suffolk Hospital in the town on May 25, 2011 – five days after he was arrested.

Suffolk police referred the matter to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which carried out an investigation.

Yesterday the inquestin Bury heard from Barry Brackenborough, a detention officer who was among those who carried out checks on Mr Edwards while he was in his cell. Mr Edwards – who had a history of drug and alcohol problems – was supposed to be roused every 30 minutes.

Mr Brackenborough had carried out checks at 11.30pm and 12midnight, but it was when he went back at 12.30am he felt there had been a “significant change”. According to Mr Brackenborough’s evidence, at 12midnight Mr Edwards had opened his eyes and said “OK”, but half an hour later,there was a raspy sound to his snore and he was very sweaty. He also had to shake him by his left shoulder to get a response.

Mr Brackenborough said he had had a conversation with Sergeant Jason Francis about his concerns and asked how difficult it needed to be to rouse him before he was taken to hospital. But Sgt Francis had said “that conversation didn’t take place”.

During the 1am check Mr Brackenborough had even more trouble rousing Mr Edwards and asked Sgt Francis to come back to the cell, the inquest heard.

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Earlier in the evening, nurse Jillian Kell-Saunders had given instructions that if Mr Edwards became difficult to rouse he should be taken to hospital. An ambulance was called, but before paramedics arrived Mr Edwards had stopped breathing. The inquest continues.