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Tuesday, 16 April, 2002, 20:00 GMT 21:00 UK
Police officers 'could have saved man'
Chris Alder
Police were called after Christopher Alder was assaulted
A man who died at a police station could have been saved if he had been given proper medical attention, a court heard.

Christopher Alder was left unconscious lying face down in the custody suite of the station while five officers stood around chatting, it was alleged.

Teesside Crown Court was told on Tuesday that had Mr Alder been put in the recovery position and given urgent medical attention by the officers he might have survived.

Conflicting medical assessments after his death however, suggested he was probably brain-damaged before he reached the police station and could have died anyway.


There would appear to be no reason to rule out his recovery had he received appropriate medical attention

Professor Jack Crane
Mr Alder, a former soldier, was taken to the Queen's Gardens police station in Hull after being arrested at a hospital, where he was taken after being assaulted.

The jury was told on Monday he had been hit in the face outside the Waterfront hotel, near Hull's Princes Quay, in the early hours of 1 April 1998.

He was taken to Hull Royal Infirmary where his mood swung erratically between aggression and calm.

He later became so aggressive that he was arrested for breach of the peace by PCs Nigel Thomas Dawson, 39, and Neil Blakey, 42.

He was then taken to the police station in a van driven by PC Mark Ellerington, 36.

PC Neil Blakey arriving at court
PC Neil Blakey arrested Mr Alder at a Hull hospital
The court heard he was dragged inside to the custody suite where PC Matthew Barr, 38, and custody sergeant John Dunn, 40, were present.

Prosecutor James Curtis QC told the jury Mr Alder had died soon after with four of the five officers standing yards away chatting to one another.

Mr Curtis said Professor Jack Crane, state pathologist for Northern Ireland, wrote a report into Mr Alder's death.

Mr Crane concluded: "There would appear to be no reason to rule out his recovery had he received appropriate medical attention, had his airway been clear, if he had been placed in the recovery position and if he had gone to hospital."

'Brain damage'

Mr Curtis also told the jury a post-mortem on Mr Alder's body, carried out by Dr John Clark, suggested he was brain-damaged when he reached the police station and might have died anyway.

Mr Curtis said Dr Clark's report stated: "His breathing was as laboured and noisy as it was because of damage to the brain which was present by then."

Mr Curtis told the jury that one of the arresting officers thought Mr Alder was "breathing happily, snoring" just moments before he died.

PC Dawson:
PC Dawson: "Thought Mr Alder was asleep"
He said that PC Dawson had told investigating officers from West Yorkshire Police Force that he thought Mr Alder was asleep in the police van on arrival at the station.

PC Blakey had told investigating officers that he thought Mr Alder's erratic behaviour in the hospital was due to a combination of drink and a bang on the head.

The jury saw CCTV evidence and a transcript of the conversation which took place between the five defendants during the final minutes of Mr Alder's life in which PC Blakey was heard to say that the arrested man had been "doing dying swan acts" in hospital.

PC Ellerington also told investigating officers that he thought Mr Alder was asleep because he was snoring very loudly.

Gurgling figure

Custody Sergeant Dunn told the investigating officers that he thought Mr Alder was making unusual rasping noises to annoy him and the other custody officers.

The jurors yesterday saw CCTV footage in which PC Barr appeared to sit down with his back to the prone, gurgling figure of Mr Alder just minutes before his death.

PCs Dawson, Blakey, Ellerington and Barr and Sergeant Dunn, whose addresses were given as Queen's Gardens police station, Hull, all deny the manslaughter of Mr Alder.

They all also deny a charge of misconduct in a public office.

The trial was adjourned until Wednesday.


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15 Apr 02 | England
Police officers 'let man die'
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