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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 April, 2004, 16:21 GMT 17:21 UK
Blunkett orders cell death review
Christopher Alder
The footage is described as "very disturbing"
The Home Secretary David Blunkett is to call for a review into the case of a former paratrooper who choked to death in police custody.

Christopher Alder, 37, of Hull, died at Queen's Gardens police station in Hull in April 1998.

The father-of-two had been arrested in hospital, where he was being treated for a banged head following a scuffle outside a hotel.

CCTV footage of his last moments has been screened in a BBC documentary.

The decision to release the video was made by Mr Alder's sister Janet, of Burnley, Lancashire, in an attempt to win a public inquiry into her brother's death.

She said she was "disappointed, but not surprised" at the Home Secretary's decision to order a review but not a public inquiry.

Mr Blunkett said he would be asking the new Independent Police Complaints Commission to review the case.

'Extreme measure'

He said: "We deeply regret the terrible distress that has clearly been caused to the family and understand perfectly well the reaction of viewers seeing these distressing scenes.

"It is, however, six years, a trial and two inquiries later that we are having to assess whether there is any beneficial purpose in reopening the case.

"Public inquiries in such circumstances cannot be triggered by TV footage of material which was already known during the judicial and inquiry investigations.

Janet Alder
I'd like a public inquiry to make people aware of what is going on
Janet Alder

"However, I am asking the new Independent Police Complaints Commission to have another look at this and to report back."

But Ms Alder said: "We don't want a review - we want a public inquiry.

"A review is another blockade, another obstacle towards finding the truth.

"I am disappointed, but not shocked by this. It is a concession that is all."

Defending her decision to allow the CCTV cell footage to be screened, she said: "It is an extreme measure, it has not been an easy decision to make but we feel that ordinary people need to know what's gone on."

The BBC obtained the video from a source other than the police for the Death on Camera programme, part of the Rough Justice series.

Executive producer Simon Ford said there was 11 minutes of footage showing Mr Alder "dying in the police station".

"The family have been asking for years to have it made public."

'Unlawfully killed'

The documentary also featured a reconstruction of events leading to his death, Mr Ford said.

An inquest concluded Mr Alder was unlawfully killed.

He was injured during a fight outside a Hull hotel and went to Hull Royal Infirmary for treatment.

DEATHS IN CUSTODY 2002-03
104 people died in police custody
16% ethnic minorities
Highest number of deaths in Metropolitan Police area

He was arrested after he became aggressive in the hospital.

Mr Alder choked to death on his own blood and vomit as he lay on the floor of the police station, without moving, for 11 minutes.

Sgt John Dunn, 40, and Pcs Neil Blakey, 42, Mark Ellerington, 37, Nigel Dawson, 41, and Matthew Barr, 38, of Humberside Police, were cleared of manslaughter and misconduct after a judge directed a jury to find them all not guilty.

An independent hearing cleared all of them of neglect of duty allegations.

Humberside Police's Deputy Chief Constable Steve Love said: "All of the officers deeply regret the death of Christopher Alder.

"All have faced a criminal trial and a discipline hearing and all have been acquitted of any wrong doing.

"As far as Christopher Alder's family is concerned, Humberside Police acknowledges that there is an absolute need to have face-to-face contact with the family with a view to listening to what has happened to them over the past six years. That is why we have assisted the BBC.

"The BBC has chosen to show the CCTV footage, which was not provided by Humberside Police. We firmly believe that a film which portrays someone dying is not for public viewing.

Mr Love said since the death of Christopher Alder, Humberside Police has introduced "changes which better safeguard the needs of those in custody".

These changes include further training for officers and support staff and "significant improvements" in the provision of custody arrangements."




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Daniel Sandford
"He was surrounded by police officers who appeared to do nothing to help him for 11 minutes"


Janet Alder, sister of Christopher Alder
"Without answers you cannot put things to rest"



SEE ALSO:
Dying man CCTV video is screened
14 Apr 04  |  Humber
Custody death family fight on
25 Jun 03  |  Humber
Police officers' trial collapses
21 Jun 02  |  England


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