Custody death man 'had taken overdose'

A FELIXSTOWE man with mental health problems died from a massive drugs overdose while in police custody, an inquest heard.

A FELIXSTOWE man with mental health problems died from a massive drugs overdose while in police custody, an inquest heard.

A forensic toxicologist said Ian Snelling could have taken as many as 100 tablets of paracetamol along with other drugs in the hours leading up to his arrest.

The inquest heard that officers detained Mr Snelling on suspicion of theft and criminal damage after an incident at the VK1 off licence in Undercliff Road West, Felixstowe, on September 1, 2006.

The store's owner had accused Mr Snelling of stealing two bottles of sherry and had locked him inside the premises while he called the police.

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Mr Snelling, of Manwick Road, was then alleged to have become disruptive and locked himself in a toilet cubicle.

When the police arrived, they engaged in a struggle with the 51-year-old and used handcuffs and leg restraints to arrest him.

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The inquest at the Ip-City Centre in Wherstead Road heard how officers believed Mr Snelling was drunk and confused and placed him in a designated cell at Felixstowe Police Station at around 11am.

Dr Ben Swift, who carried out the post mortem, said there was no evidence of alcohol in his blood and said the overdose would have made him appear confused.

The jury heard how Mr Snelling was checked every half an hour, but when officers visited him at around 1pm, he was unconscious and had blood coming from his mouth.

Police and paramedics made attempts to revive him, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Forensic toxicologist Robert Forrest said Mr Snelling was poisoned by a complex combination of paracetamol and drugs to treat high blood pressure and depression.

He said: “The liver cannot handle the acid. Your brain and heart don't work properly and your metabolism is even more impaired as you spiral down to death.”

But he said that Mr Snelling's chances of survival even with immediate intensive care would have been slim.

His death prompted an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which decided that no prosecutions would be brought against the officers in charge.

Mr Forrest said Mr Snelling could have taken the overdose while he had locked himself in the toilet at the off-licence.

Also giving evidence at the inquest was Stuart Kennedy, co-owner of VK1 off licence. He said it appeared as though Mr Snelling was on drugs when he was in his shop because of his behaviour. He also praised the way police officers handled the incident. “They dealt with him as you would expect of the police. They did their job and when they put the handcuffs on Mr Snelling was very calm. No excessive force was used.”

The inquest heard that Mr Snelling suffered from a range of mental health problems including depression and psychosis.

He had taken five overdoses between 2002 and 2006, but on the day before his death, mental health workers described Mr Snelling as having a positive outlook on his future.

The inquest continues.

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