A former police officer allegedly attacked by Sheku Bayoh believes his death was “unavoidable”, an inquiry has heard.
Nicole Short says the 31-year-old displayed “superhuman” strength and was “deranged” during a struggle with police officers.
She said she saw three male police officers – one of whom weighed 25 stone – restrain Mr Bayoh, who then lifted them off the ground.
And added she feared Mr Bayoh was coming to “finish her off” following the alleged attack on her.
Sheku Bayoh was ‘genuine threat’
Ms Short – who was later retired on medical grounds – was one of the first officers on the scene in May 2015.
She said she was relieved to see two more experienced officers already on the scene but realised that they had assessed Mr Bayoh as a “genuine and serious threat”.
But within seconds of her arrival with partner PC Ashley Tomlinson she said she found herself fleeing in terror as Mr Bayoh approached her.
She fell to the ground after being hit from behind and curled into a ball to protect her head.
The diminutive former officer – who stands just 5ft 1in – said she was bodily lifted from the ground by PC Alan Paton grabbing her stab vest.
Ms Short then staggered to a nearby van, where she watched subsequent events unfold.
She said: “I turned round and I saw Mr Bayoh lifting my three male colleagues, PCs Tomlinson, Paton and Walker, off the ground and struggling with them.
“Mr Bayoh was in a press up position – that’s how he was trying to get up off ground.
Footprint on back of stab vest
“I remember thinking this was three of the biggest guys on the shift and he’s managing to lift them up.
“It was like nothing I’d ever seen before in my life, that level of strength.
“I remember being horrified because I had a genuine belief he was going to get up and finish me off.”
Ms Short was later taken to the nearby Victoria Hospital for a check up.
On return to Kirkcaldy police station she kept her stab vest on for some time, before discovering a footprint on the back when she removed it.
She said: “I kept it on for hours afterwards. I was just too sore to move it.
“To be honest it was like it was holding me together in a way.
“I went to lean it on the other officers vests that had been taken off.
“It was at that point… I saw what I was sure was a footprint mark on the back of my vest.”
The vest was later taken away by investigating officers as evidence.
In a statement made to PIRC 10 days after the incident, Ms Short stated: “When I look back on the situation there is nothing else we could have done differently or I could have done differently.
“The man was deranged with superhuman strength and in my mind intent on killing someone.
“I have no idea how he died but in my opinion his death was unavoidable.”
Colleagues tell her she was stamped on
She also stated she believed her colleagues had saved her life that day, and that PC Tomlinson had told her Mr Bayoh had been stamping on her.
Asked by Angela Grahame QC what she meant by saying Mr Bayoh had superhuman strength and was deranged, Ms Short replied: “Initially, the superhuman strength element came with the PAVA and the CS spray having absolutely no effect on him whatsoever.
“With my experience of it you’ve no choice but to be incapacitated with it.
“The next one was the strength that he showed by lifting those three male officers up off the ground.”
Race played no part in handling of incident
She added that the force of Mr Bayoh’s restraint was, in her opinion, reasonable.
“I would say that it was completely in line with the level of violence and resistance shown by Mr Bayoh,” she said.
“In actual fact Mr Bayoh was bordering on overcoming them.”
She denied that the incident would have been dealt with differently had Mr Bayoh been white.
“Absolutely not”, she said.
“Because the reactions would have been the same – the walking away, the spray not working.
“The colour of his skin had no bearing on how we reacted to that call whatsoever.”
The inquiry before Lord Bracadale continues.
Mr Bayoh’s family has attended every day of the inquiry so far.
His sister Kadi Johnson said during the first day that she “no longer feels safe in Scotland” following Mr Bayoh’s death.