Kent

Colin Holt death: Kent Police officers 'let detained man die'

  • 24 April 2013
  • From the section Kent
Pc Neil Bowdery (left) and Pc Maurice Leigh
Neil Bowdery (left) and Maurice Leigh deny misconduct in public office

Two Kent policemen allowed a man with paranoid schizophrenia to die after neglecting their duty as they detained him at his home, a court has heard.

PCs Maurice Leigh and Neil Bowdery deny misconduct in public office over the death of Colin Holt in August 2010.

Mr Holt, 52, died from positional asphyxia at his flat in Goudhurst Road, Twydall, in Gillingham.

The jury at Maidstone Crown Court heard the officers acted with "reckless indifference" towards him.

Two days before his death on 30 August, Mr Holt was admitted to the Medway Maritime Hospital and detained under the Mental Health Act.

Fish tank cracked

The court heard that 48 hours later, Mr Holt went missing, prompting police to check his flat to return him to hospital.

Prosecutor Duncan Penny said it was the Crown's case that the officers' conduct fell so far below acceptable standards that it amounted to "an abuse of the public's trust" in them.

Harbledown Manor in Twydall
Colin Holt died from positional asphyxia at his flat in Gillingham in August 2010

He told jurors that neither officer was accused of being responsible for his death, but "having detained him following a struggle, each neglected his duty, each failed to take reasonable and proper care of him and, through that neglect, though plainly not with that intention, allowed him to die in front of them without taking action to seek to prevent it".

The court heard how PC Leigh, 54, and a colleague had let themselves in to Mr Holt's flat through the unlocked door and found him sitting in an armchair.

He became aggressive when asked to prove his identity, leading to a struggle during which a fish tank cracked and water leaked out.

Mr Penny said Mr Holt threw the other officer, PC Reeves, towards a television, causing both men to land on the floor.

Mr Holt was eventually handcuffed with his hands kept behind his back and brought up to an armchair - face down - so he could not lash out again.

'Out cold'

Emergency back-up was requested and other officers, including PC Bowdery, 29, arrived on the scene, jurors heard.

At one point, as an officer shouted out to Mr Holt asking where the fuse-box was, PC Leigh was said to have replied with words to the effect of: "I wouldn't bother, he's out cold."

Another officer, PC Brett, noticed that Mr Holt had vomited and appeared lifeless, and asked who was checking on him.

He then laid Mr Holt on the floor face down and removed his handcuffs before attempts were made to clear his airways.

Paramedics administered CPR for about 20 minutes but their efforts were to prove in vain, the court was told.

A post-mortem examination concluded that Mr Holt appeared to have struggled against restraint "for some time" and his position was likely to have compromised his ability to breathe.

The trial continues.

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