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Last Updated: Saturday, 6 November 2004, 13:27 GMT
Family anger at 'quashed' verdict
Roger Sylvester
Roger Sylvester fell into a coma after he stopped breathing
A family has told of their shock after a judge indicated he would quash an inquest verdict that a mentally-ill man was unlawfully killed by police.

Roger Sylvester, 30, from Tottenham, north London, died in January 1999 after being restrained by officers.

Eight Metropolitan Police officers had challenged the ruling, made last October, arguing it was "irrational".

On Friday the Appeal Court judge, who will report in full later, criticised the way the coroner summed up.

This is something that could tear families apart, but we are still there and are looking forward to Christmas
Victor Sylvester

At the end of a three-day hearing Mr Justice Collins also said some of the reasons given by the 11-strong jury for their verdict were inconsistent with others.

He went on to criticise the Metropolitan Police Commissioner for suspending two officers involved in detaining Mr Sylvester, but not in restraining him. Eight in all were suspended.

Victor Sylvester, cousin of Roger, told BBC News the family had been disappointed the coroner had not be there to defend himself, but they were now waiting for the judge's written judgement.

Speaking on the events in court he said: "We were a bit shocked, it happened quite quickly at the end of the case."

"Everybody was a bit sad yesterday evening, but otherwise we have got lots of support.

"We are all there to support each other. This is something that could tear families apart, but we are still there and are looking forward to Christmas."

'No evidence'

Ken Fero, of United Family and Friends Campaign (UFFC), said Mr Sylvester's parents, Rupert and Sheila, were "distraught" at the judge's remarks.

"They are very disappointed with the position the judge has taken."

He said family members and supporters would spend the next few days deciding what to do next.

"It's a very, very strong family. It took them four years to get to the verdict of unlawful killing, and another year waiting for this case, and I don't think they are going to stop.

"There's always somewhere to go, even when the situation looks bleak," he told BBC News.

Rupert and Sheila Sylvester
Roger Sylvester's parents had not expected the judge to reveal his decision

The family had expected to be told to wait a month for the judge's written report.

"It is tortuous for the family to hear snippets of what the judge is thinking in this way," he added.

Lawyers for the officers had argued that the inquest was wrongly allowed to be turned into a surrogate criminal trial in which the police involved stood convicted of manslaughter.

There was no evidence to support the decision Mr Sylvester was killed unlawfully, they maintained.

Mr Sylvester collapsed after being restrained in a padded room at a psychiatric hospital.

He had suffered from mental health and drug problems, and was detained naked and banging on his own front door in Tottenham, north London.

Following his detention he was in a coma for seven days, before being pronounced dead on 18 January 1999.

The inquest jury returned a verdict that he died from brain damage and cardiac arrest due to breathing difficulties caused by restraint.

The Sylvester family have argued the verdict was justified.

Why the officers are asking for a judicial review

Police fight Sylvester verdict
22 Dec 03 |  England
Sylvester inquest sparks review
03 Oct 03 |  England

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