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Friday, August 20, 1999 Published at 21:07 GMT 22:07 UK


Woman dead after fit in police custody

Inquiry at Stoke Newington

The boyfriend of a woman who collapsed in police custody and later died is planning to stage a demonstration to push for a full inquiry.

Paul Doyle told a public meeting in Hackney the investigation into the death of Welsh student Sarah Thomas should be conducted by an outside force.

Ms Thomas, 34, who lived in north London and came from Newport, had taken cocaine before she suffered a fit at Stoke Newington police station.

The BBC's Conor Tiernan reports on the sequence of events
Ms Thomas had been arrested by plain clothes police officers for a public order offence in Finsbury Park on Wednesday.

She was transferred to Homerton Hospital where she died late on Friday night.

The Police Complaints Authority has launched an investigation but Mr Doyle insists it should not involve officers from the after the death of a woman who collapsed in police custody.

The case was voluntarily referred to the Police Complaints Authority by the Metropolitan Police.

Jo Dobry, from the PCA, said: "This will be a very comprehensive investigation, including what happened prior to her arrest. The result will be passed to the Coroner for the public inquest."

'Massive anger'

Equal rights campaigner Lee Jasper said: "Sarah Thomas's death will cause massive anger and outrage among ethnic minorities."

Mr Jasper said he was unhappy with PCA investigations into deaths in custody.

"We have been pushing for a long time for a more vigorous lay involvement in PCA investigations.

"Ordinary people should be able to hear the evidence from police officers as it is given," he said.

'Air of secrecy'

Deborah Coles, co-director of Inquest, a campaign and advice group for people who have died in police custody, said she was "disturbed and angered" by Ms Thomas's death.

"There has been an air of secrecy and confusion about her death. We can have no confidence in the PCA inquiry which relies on the police investigating other police," she said.

"This is the second death in police custody in six months. It reinforces the need for a completely independent inquiry into deaths in police custody."

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