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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 September, 2003, 13:43 GMT 14:43 UK
Sylvester death cover-up denied
By Cindi John
BBC News Online community affairs reporter

One of the police officers involved in arresting and restraining a man who later died has denied police colluded to stage a cover-up.

Rupert and Sheila Sylvester
Roger Sylvester's parents hope to find out more about their son's death

Metropolitan Police Sergeant Andrew Newman said a meeting between eight officers after leaving the hospital where Roger Sylvester died was not to agree a joint story.

Mr Sylvester, 30, died in January 1999, eight days after being restrained and handcuffed by eight officers from the London force.

At the time a police constable, Mr Newman told the inquest at London's St Pancras Coroner's Court: "We put our heads together to make sure we remembered the incident correctly."

They later called a representative from the Police Federation union, Bob Elder, out of fear of adverse publicity, he said.

I was struggling throughout the encounter. He seemed to have exceptional strength
Sergeant Andrew Newman

"We were all very upset and stressed after the events of the night and Mr Elder was called to look after our welfare," said Mr Newman

Earlier Mr Newman told the hearing he and a colleague had responded to a 999 call on 11 January 1999, made by a concerned resident.

He found Mr Sylvester naked, banging on the door of his flat in Tottenham, north London, and acting "bizarrely".

Mr Newman said he had tried to communicate with Mr Sylvester, but got no replies from the man, who continued to dive and crouch on the ground "like a goalkeeper".

One limb each

He told the hearing he believed Mr Sylvester was suffering from mental health problems and needed to go to hospital, so he called for back-up.

Afterwards, six other officers arrived and helped to restrain Mr Sylvester, Mr Newman said.

"When Mr Sylvester dived to the ground I placed my right knee on his face and took control of his head," he said.

"Officers then each controlled another of Mr Sylvester's limbs and they lifted him and carried him face up to the police van."

Roger Sylvester with his god-child
Roger Sylvester died after being restrained by police

Later he said they had a hard job keeping him under control.

"I was struggling throughout the encounter. He seemed to have exceptional strength. I was sweating with the other officers to restrain him."

Mr Sylvester was then taken to the nearby St Anne's Hospital where officers continued to restrain him, said Mr Newman.

He said the officers continued to pin him down because they feared he would injure somebody if they stood him upright.

He was taken to a prepared room, where a doctor said she would sedate him, the inquest was told.

But when she left the room, Mr Sylvester lost consciousness. Officers called for medical help and tried to resuscitate him.

He was not restraining Mr Sylvester when he lapsed into a coma, Mr Newman added.

Mr Newman is the first of eight officers to give evidence to the hearing into Mr Sylvester's death.

The hearing continues.


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