Man died in Tonbridge police station after bag of cocaine burst
by Andy Tong | 12th June 2019
A MAN who died in custody at Tonbridge police station had swallowed a bag of cocaine, according to an inquest into his death.
Carl Maynard died of acute toxicity after having his fingerprints taken on October 13 2017. The fatal incident was investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission [IPCC].
He was arrested for allegedly punching his partner Chrissie Colgate at their home in Maidstone.
Police had already visited the house on October 1. On their return they forced entry when no one answered.
Counsel Stephen Simblet, representing Mr Maynard’s family, asked why the arresting officer, who suspected he had ingested a substance, did not take him to hospital.
A post-mortem revealed that the 29-year-old father of one had a large plastic bag in his stomach.
It also detected levels of cocaine in his blood consistent with drug smugglers who swallow packages that burst.
He was exposed to 23mg of the Class A drug per litre of blood – while a recreational dose would show a reading of a fraction of a milligram.
Pathologist Dr Olaf Biedrzycki saw CCTV footage of Mr Maynard’s collapse and said: “He does seem to be relatively calm, then the clinical evidence suggests that there was a sudden release of drugs in his system.”
He was arrested at 3pm and collapsed at 4.23pm. Paramedics tried to resuscitate him but he was pronounced dead at 4.45pm.
Miss Colgate told the inquest at Archbishop’s Palace in Maidstone that she had not been assaulted.
She described the arrest, saying: “He was choking. I was hysterically screaming [at the officers] to get off of him.
‘I need an honest answer. Have you swallowed anything? If you have I will take you to hospital’
“The officers sounded concerned. They asked ‘have you swallowed any gear, Carl? It sounds like your airway is obstructed’.
“If they have that much suspicion, why did they not take him to hospital?”
She said Mr Maynard ‘looked like he was gagging’ as police held him against a wall with his arm behind his back.
The arresting officer, PC Richard McIver-Hall, confirmed that he had asked the victim about what he had swallowed several times.
He claimed the painter-decorator denied he had ingested anything but was trying to relieve pain from some swelling in his throat caused by a cold.
PC McIver-Hall said he told Mr Maynard: “I need an honest answer. Have you swallowed anything? If you have, I won’t take you to custody, I will take you to hospital.”
Mr Simblet claimed: “It must be right that at some point Carl Maynard swallowed a package containing cocaine and it must be right from what was said both in Miss Colgate’s evidence and your evidence that you must have thought he swallowed something.”
'The possibility of successful medical treatment was highly unlikely. However, the chances of Carl’s survival would have been higher in a hospital than in police custody'
PC McIver-Hall, who said he had found no evidence of drug use in the house, responded: “No, because he put his fingers in his mouth and at that point I had no explanation.
“I know what I saw and I needed to ask these questions to establish it and when I did with Mr Maynard and Miss Colgate and my colleagues I totally believed that he had swallowed nothing.”
Mr Simblet added: “You made a serious error, didn’t you? And as a result somebody died.”
PC McIver-Hall replied: “No I didn’t, sir. It’s incredibly tragic.”
When the IPCC announced its investigation in December 2017, it asked Kent Police to update the procedure where an officer knows or suspects a person urgently needs medical attention.
At the end of the court proceedings yesterday [Tuesday] the jury foreperson said: “The officers entered his home with good intentions for the wellbeing of the occupants.
“However, they did not enter with the intention of saving life and limb.
“The possibility of successful medical treatment was highly unlikely. However, the chances of Carl’s survival would have been higher in a hospital than in police custody.
“Failing to take Carl directly to hospital from his home represents a missed opportunity to increase Carl’s chances of survival.”
Body cameras not turned on
The family’s counsel criticised the officers for not turning on their body-worn video cameras to record the arrest ‘despite the policy making clear that there was a strong presumption that they should do so. This failure has denied our family the opportunity to really know what happened in that room’.
Mr Maynard’s relatives said they were ‘thoroughly let down’ by the police’s internal investigation which ‘concluded that there was insufficient evidence to find that any of the officers had a case to answer for misconduct’.
They added: “We hope in light of the jury conclusion that they review their decision.”