Page last updated at 19:35 GMT, Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Man 'died in police custody'

Michael Powell
Police will say they drove a car at Michael Powell, the jury heard

A man with a history of mental illness died in police custody after being hit by a patrol car that was called to his home, a jury inquest has been told.

Michael Powell, 38, was also hit with a baton before being restrained by officers in Birmingham, in September 2003, Sutton Coldfield Town Hall heard.

He was taken to Thornhill Road police station where he stopped breathing.

But the inquest heard medical experts do not think Mr Powell died as a result of being hit by the car or baton.

The coroner said the inquest had been delayed because of other proceedings and investigations into Mr Powell's death, which happened while he was staying at his mother's home in Wilton Street, Lozells.

The two police officers will say they believed [Mr Powell] had a gun behind his back
Stephen Campbell
Assistant deputy coroner

He said that on the night of Saturday, 6 September 2003 Mr Powell had been "behaving in what may be considered to be a rather odd way".

Mr Campbell told the jury that Mr Powell, who was known as Mikey, broke a front window at his mother's house, prompting her to phone the police. A recording of her call was played to the jurors.

Jurors heard Mr Powell then smashed a window of a patrol car, which had two officers inside, before turning around and returning to the house.

Mr Campbell said: "The two police officers will say they believed [Mr Powell] had a gun behind his back and as a result they feared for their lives.

"The decision was made by both of them that the police car should be driven deliberately at Mr Powell."

'Positional asphyxia'

The jury was told Mr Powell, who did not have a gun, was able to get up after being knocked down.

CS-spray was then used on Mr Powell and he was also struck with the baton, but continued to struggle, the hearing was told.

About 10 other officers arrived and Mr Powell was restrained, handcuffed and placed in a van which took him to the police station.

Jurors heard how Mr Powell was carried into the police station but, as he was being put into a cell, it was noticed he was not breathing.

I told them, 'he's my son - please don't hit him while he's sick'
Clarissa Powell

Officers tried to revive him, the hearing was told, but Mr Powell was pronounced died at Birmingham's City Hospital.

His mother Clarissa told the inquest she had not been aware until after her son's death that he had been treated in 1994 with anti-psychotic medication.

She told the jury her son was a loving and friendly person who would do anything for anybody.

Mrs Powell told the hearing how, after calling the police to her home, she saw six officers on top of her son, who was lying on his back in the street.

She said: "I told them, 'he's my son - please don't hit him while he's sick. He needs an ambulance to take him to hospital'."

Sickle cell

The coroner told the jury several medical experts would be giving evidence to the inquest.

Mr Campbell said one medical witness who was due to give evidence during the inquest believed that Mr Powell had died from a complication of a sickle cell trait.

However, he said, another pathologist believed Mr Powell had died of "positional asphyxia".

Mr Campbell explained that other pathologists believed the cause of death was "unascertained" or down to a "number of different factors".

The inquest is expected to last for six weeks.

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