Page last updated at 16:28 GMT, Monday, 11 January 2010

Plumstead custody death man 'could not breathe'

Patricia Coker, Paul Coker's mother
Patricia Coker said her son Paul was trying to 'move forward'

A cocaine addict who died in custody told officers "you're killing me" as he was arrested at his girlfriend's south-east London home, an inquest has heard.

Paul Coker, 32, died at Plumstead police station, two hours after he was arrested at Lucy Chadwick's house for breaching the peace on 6 August 2005.

Mr Coker had shouted "I can't breathe, you're killing me", Ms Chadwick told Southwark Coroner's Court.

A jury will decide if police followed correct detention procedures.

The court heard Mr Coker became unwell and collapsed after being transported to cells.

Coroner Selina Lynch told jurors that a pathologist's report gave the cause of death as cocaine intoxication.

Members of Mr Coker's family, including his mother Patricia Coker, were present in court.

Giving evidence, Ms Chadwick said Mr Coker had been taking cocaine and cannabis and had become "a bit paranoid".

'Decent person'

Her landlord and his sons called the police when he refused to leave. She was with them downstairs when officers entered the room to take him away.

"He was saying, 'You are hurting me, I can't breathe, you are killing me'," Ms Chadwick told the court.

Mrs Coker, 65, said her son was "no angel" but described him as a "very attractive, charming young man".

Mrs Coker told the court: "He tried very hard to overcome these problems in his later life. He found it difficult, but he was really trying to move forward.

"He was basically a very good and decent person," she said.

Mr Coker had been battling depression, substance abuse and had been sentenced for burglary. But days before his death he had secured a new job and was about to move into a flat, the court heard.

Mrs Coker saw him shortly before he went to visit his girlfriend.

The inquest continues.

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