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Family of man who died in Scottish police custody want "the whole truth"

And a war of words has broken out between police and the family’s lawyer.
May 14th 2015, 10:31 PM 14,609 25

Sheku Bayoh death File photo of Sheku Bayoh Source: Andrew Milligan

THE FAMILY OF a Sierra Leonean man who died in police custody in Scotland earlier this month have called for an independent inquiry.

Sheku Bayoh, 31, died on Sunday 3 May after being arrested during an incident in Kircaldy, near Edinburgh.

The Police Investigations and Review Commissioner has launched a probe into the circumstances surrounding his death, and are appealing for witnesses to come forward.

Today, however, Bayoh’s family and their lawyer appealed for a separate independent inquiry into the death.

“I want to know the whole truth of the circumstances surrounding his death,” his partner Colette Bell told a press conference attended by the Guardian.

“So that one day I can explain to my son Isaac Bayoh, why he has had to grow up without his daddy,” she added.

The family’s lawyer, Aamer Anwar, said Bayoh was a “well-liked and peaceful young man with no history of violence,” Forth 1 Radio reports.

Five different versions of events were given to the family by the Police Scotland officers of the course of 10 hours.
I’m told they were finally told he had died in police custody. That is a matter of grave concern.

Bayoh’s sister, Kadijartu Johnson, said: “We will not be able to grieve until we know the truth,” and accused police officers of lying to the family.

Sheku Bayoh death Sheku Bayoh's partner Colette Bell at a press conference at Augustine United Church in Edinburgh. Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

In response to today’s press conference, however, the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) issued a strongly-worded statement criticising the family’s lawyer Anwar and alleging that Bayoh had stabbed a police officer during the incident.

The SPF does not wish to add to [the family's] pain by making unhelpful comments to the press. We are saddened that his legal representatives appear not to take the same approach.
A petite female police officer responding to a call of a man brandishing a knife was subject to a violent and unprovoked attack by a large male. The officer believed she was going to die as a result of this assault.

This provoked an angry response from Anwar, who said the allegations of an assault by Bayoh were “simply untrue.”

Deborah Coles, from the charity Inquest, said the SPF was unacceptably “smearing and demonising” Bayoh, and addressed the racial dimension of the death, in a statement.

INQUEST has worked on far too many cases of young black men who have died following the use of restraint by police officers.

It is vital that the police are properly held to account and the full facts are established.

Read: Outrage and protests after death of black man arrested by Baltimore police>

Read: Police officer pleads not guilty to slamming a grandfather into the ground, paralysing him>

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Dan MacGuill

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