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Sheku Bayoh death: BBC Panorama to show allegations police officers provided incorrect statements

Sheku Bayoh who died while being arrested by Police Scotland in Kirkcaldy in 2015
Sheku Bayoh who died while being arrested by Police Scotland in Kirkcaldy in 2015

New allegations around the death of Sheku Bayoh will be levelled by BBC Panorama tonight.

The programme, I can’t Breathe: Black and Dead in Custody suggests two officers involved in Mr Bayoh’s death may have provided incorrect statements to investigators.

The officers had claimed Mr Bayoh, a black man from Kirkcaldy, carried out a stamping attack on a female PC before being brought to the ground and restrained by up to six officers.

Sheku Bayoh.

Mr Bayoh, 31, was restrained on the ground for five minutes before falling unconscious. He died soon after.

A witness to the 2015 incident has now told the BBC the stamping attack did not happen.

‘Compelling material’

The Scottish Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers. said it had seen “compelling material” that Mr Bayoh did stamp on the back of a policewoman.

It said officers had co-operated fully and truthfully with the investigation but were unable to comment further.

Police were called on the morning of May 3 after Mr Bayoh was spotted behaving erratically with a knife in a Kirkcaldy street.

According to police statements, by the time officers arrived Mr Bayoh no longer had the knife.

They say he failed to obey instructions to get on the ground and four officers used force including batons and CS spray on him.

Kevin Nelson was in a nearby house and saw events unfold.

Two days later, he gave his account to investigators from the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc), which investigates deaths in custody.

Mr Nelson told the BBC programme he saw Mr Bayoh attempt to walk away from the officers, ignoring their commands, before being sprayed.

He said Mr Bayoh retaliated and punched PC Nicole Short.

Asked if there had been any further contact with PC Short, he said: “No. He was running off…after the punch, there was no more attack on her at all.”

Panorama said two officers, PCs Craig Walker and Ashley Tomlinson, said in their accounts to investigators Mr Bayoh carried out a violent stamping attack on PC Short while she lay on the ground.

PC Walker told investigators: “I had a clear view of him…he had his arms raised up at right angles to his body and brought his right foot down in a full force stamp onto her lower back.

PS Tomlinson added: “I thought he had killed her. He stomped on her back again.”

‘Never happened’

Asked about the claims, Kevin Nelson said: “That never happened.

“I didn’t see him stamping at all or, other than the punch, any raised arms.

“After the punch, that was it. There was no more attack on her at all.”

Mr Nelson’s account is supported by CCTV footage of the incident, obtained by Panorama.

It is poor quality but appears to show that once PC Short is knocked down by Mr Bayoh the action moves away from her.

Mr Bayoh is then brought down within five seconds.

PC Short did not mention in her statement she had been stamped on, saying she must have been knocked unconscious, and only learned about the alleged stamping when colleagues told her afterwards.

In the CCTV, PC Short appears to get to her feet a few seconds after Mr Bayoh is brought down.

A full public inquiry is now under way.

Sheku Bayoh’s family said the claims came as little surprise.

In a statement released through lawyer Aamer Anwar, they said: “Sheku’s family over the course of five years have suffered heartbreak, anger and frustration at the lack of accountability after his death and the failure of the Crown Office and Pirc to hold the police to account.

“Following Sheku’s death he was criminalised, stereotyped and lied about in order to justify his death.

“Sadly today’s allegations come as little surprise.

“The reality is no person will ever face justice for what happened to Sheku, but his family still have hope that the truth will emerge through the public inquiry.”

The programme airs on BBC One tonight at 7.35pm.

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