Page last updated at 18:28 GMT, Friday, 16 October 2009 19:28 UK

Funeral stopped for tests on body

Stuart Smith's partner said she had to tell their children, "we can't say bye to daddy"

Police in Essex stopped a hearse on the way to a crematorium so a pathologist could carry out tests on the corpse, it has been revealed.

Officers suspected Stuart Smith, 37, from Colchester, had been subjected to "excessive force" when he was arrested earlier this month.

A police spokesman said tests had not revealed evidence of assault and Mr Smith had died after a drug overdose.

One officer had been suspended while inquiries were carried out, he said.

As police were moving Mr Smith's body from the hearse to a mortuary for tests his partner Nicola Lawson and their five children were waiting in Colchester Crematorium for the funeral service to start.

Ms Lawson said: "It was bad enough losing him and arranging the funeral but to have the body taken in this way is unbearable."

Mr Smith was a recovering heroin addict with a criminal record and had been arrested last month in Colchester on suspicion of threats to kill his partner's mother.

Incident investigated

He was charged with sending an offensive message and three days later he was dead.

Questions are now being asked on whether officers used excessive force during his arrest which, unknown at the time, was captured on CCTV.

In a statement Essex Police said: "One officer is on restricted duties and one has been suspended while inquiries continue.

"The incident has been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission and they're carrying out a supervised investigation."

Floral tributes intended for Mr Smith's funeral have been left wilting in the family's garden.

Essex Police have agreed to pay for the costs of the cancelled funeral.



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