Page last updated at 15:11 GMT, Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Musician's complaint over arrest

Victor Frederick
Victor Frederick's band has previously played at the South Wales Police ball

A musician is demanding answers from police after being wrongly arrested at gunpoint on suspicion of possessing potential bomb-making materials.

Victor Frederick, 63, was arrested by armed officers outside his house in Riverside, Cardiff, in February.

He said police also pointed guns at his partner and their 12-year-old daughter who were at home at the time.

South Wales Police said officers had acted in good faith in response to genuine concerns.

Mr Frederick, who is originally from the Caribbean but has lived in Cardiff for more than 35 years, told a press conference organised by Plaid Cymru's Leanne Wood, Assembly Member for South Wales Central, he had never been in trouble with police before.

He said his band The Cougar had even played at the South Wales Police ball in Bridgend a couple of years ago.

"I could've been shot, my daughter and partner could've been shot," he said.

"It felt like a dream. I couldn't make sense of it. We really want to know why this happened."

Riot gear

Mr Frederick said he was returning home from his band's studio in the Grangetown area of Cardiff on 17 February when he was approached by police armed with machine guns.

He was arrested on suspicion of "possessing materials likely to be used for making explosives".

His partner Andrea Heath, 49, a youth and community worker who was at home at the time with their daughter, said she heard a key in the front door but did not hear anybody coming in.

"I heard shouting and a commotion and heard the door bang," she said.

"I ran downstairs and opened the front door and there were four or five police officers in riot gear with machine guns with infra-red sights all pointed at the door at me.

Andrea Heath
I'm still very traumatised by it - I think we need some answers
Andrea Heath

"I could hear my daughter screaming upstairs and I told her to stay back but she came down."

Ms Heath said that at one point an officer told her: "Stay back or I'll shoot".

Mr Frederick, who was arrested on the street, was taken to a police station for questioning while their home was searched.

He was held for just under 24 hours then released without charge. The family said they had not received an apology.

"I'm still very traumatised by it. I think we need some answers - we need to know why it happened," said Ms Heath.

"We need to be able to make some sense of it to be able to move on."

She added she had been receiving treatment for post-traumatic stress.

Mr Frederick said he did not understand why he had been under suspicion but believed "malicious gossip" could have played a part.

Leanne Wood has taken up the family's case, making an official complaint to South Wales Police and copying in the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Ms Wood said Mr Frederick was informed of a list of "suspicious items" which were found at the music studio including a broken guitar, a broken tape machine and a West Indian non-alcoholic drink called mauby found in a fridge.

'Hugely disproportionate'

She said the list also included a "video tape relating to Pakistan" but Mr Frederick said the only video tape in the studio was of boxing legend Muhammad Ali.

"It is presumably these items which led to subsequent police actions," she said.

She said the family understood suspicions of terrorist activity had to be investigated but they believed the police response was "hugely disproportionate".

"If basic enquiries had been made earlier on, this whole incident could've been avoided," she said.

South Wales Police said in a statement officers had received information about suspicious items at a property in Grangetown.

"On 17th February, armed police officers were deployed as a precaution to ensure the safety of the public and officers, and a 63-year-old man was arrested," said the statement.

"He was later released without charge. South Wales Police accepts Mr Frederick has done nothing wrong and our officers acted in good faith in response to genuine concerns.

"South Wales Police has a duty to thoroughly investigate all potentially suspicious incidents in order to protect our communities."

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