Suspect 'swallowed package', Reading cell death inquest hears

Leroy Medford Image copyright Marilyn Medford
Image caption Leroy Junior Medford died after collapsing at Loddon Valley police station

A suspect removed a package believed to contain Class A drugs from his trousers and swallowed it hours before he died, an inquest heard.

Leroy Junior Medford was under constant observation in his cell by officers at Lodden Valley police station, Reading, after his arrest on 1 April 2017.

Coroner Heidi Connor told a jury video footage from the 43-year-old's cell showed him swallowing a package.

Mr Medford from Reading was declared dead in hospital the next day.

Reading Coroner's Court heard Thames Valley Police officers were told the father-of-eight was "packing" drugs when they arrested him over an assault allegation and drugs offence.

After being stripped searched, Mr Medford, known as Junior, was transferred to hospital for further examination but a CT scan did not reveal any "indication of drugs" inside him.

He was then discharged and transported back to custody but Sgt Alexander Clough told the court constant observation was needed to "rule out" whether Mr Medford was concealing drugs.

The custody sergeant authorised a further strip search due to his experience of scans coming back "inconclusive".

He told the jury he talked to Mr Medford about "any theoretical package" inside him was "not worth it in terms of his health" and any forthcoming prosecution.

'Negative strip search'

Mrs Connor said having reviewed CCTV in the suspect's cell, "Junior is seen slip his hand down the back of his trousers, remove something from his anus and immediately swallow it".

"This occurred during a period Junior was supposed to be under constant observation, is that correct?" she said.

"That's correct," Sgt Clough replied. The court heard he did not know about Mr Medford's actions at the time.

Sgt Clough added officers did not report to him if anything had been found in Mr Medford's cell following a third "negative" strip search.

The court heard Mr Medford's observation was reduced to a check every 30 minutes and a health care professional said he appeared "drowsy".

Sgt Clough said he "didn't think he (Mr Medford) was drowsy", and added a health worker had "roused" the suspect later to move him to a different cell.

Mr Medford's condition deteriorated and his death was confirmed at Royal Berkshire Hospital on 2 April, 15-and-a-half hours after his arrest.

The inquest continues.

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