Bury St Edmunds man died after telling police he had taken "ounce of cocaine", inquest hears
PUBLISHED: 17:26 25 March 2019 | UPDATED: 17:58 29 March 2019
A 29-year-old Bury St Edmunds man arrested by police died after he told them he had taken an ounce of cocaine, an inquest heard.
Lee Sparks, of West Street, Icklingham, died on Christmas Eve, 2015, after falling ill following his arrest by Suffolk police.
He had been apprehended at a Tesco Supermarket in Fordham Road, Newmarket, on suspicion of theft but his condition deteriorated while in custody and, despite being taken to hospital, he later died.
A jury will now decide how he came by his death at Suffolk Coroners Court in Ipswich.
The court heard how Mr Sparks had been confronted by staff at the Tesco at 5.45pm on December 24.
They suspected that he was involved in a shop lifting incident a few days before and, after recognising him, tried to prevent him from leaving the store.
CCTV played during the inquest showed that a struggle ensued and Mr Sparks was restrained in the foyer of the store by security staff, shop workers and members of the public while they waited for police officers to arrive. Up to eleven people had assisted in his detention.
It was recorded that the helpers thought that Mr Sparks had been under the influence of alcohol or drugs. They also believed that he may have had some drugs in his pockets.
He was searched both at the supermarket and then at Bury St Edmunds Police Investigation Centre where he was taken by officers, but nothing was found.
Despite previously denying that he had taken any drugs, Mr Sparks told officers that he had taken an ounce of cocaine and was taken to the A&E department at West Suffolk Hospital, Bury, in a police van.
Shortly after his admission, Mr Sparks had a fit and was taken to the resuscitation unit where attempts were made to revive him but failed.
A statement read to the court on behalf of Mr Sparks father, Trevor, said: “Lee was always well mannered and helpful. He would help anyone he could. He was always kind and polite. But, when he took drugs his personality changed.”
The inquest is scheduled for five days, with the jury set to deliberate on Friday, March 29.