POLICE have told an inquest into the death of a man at King’s Mill Hospital that they sprayed him with CS gas as they feared he would do harm to himself or other patients.
Officers were called to the hospital on the night of August 7, 2006, to restrain 54-year-old Victor Massey, of Westwood, who died shortly after midnight – six days after he was admitted for treatment of pancreatitis.
The jury inquest was told that Mr Massey, of Palmerston Street, left his bed on ward seven and barricaded himself in a shower cubicle which led to concerned hospital and security staff contacting the police.
This week, several police officers took to the witness box at Nottingham Coroner’s Court and told the jury they believed Mr Massey was in danger of injuring himself if they did not get him out of the shower cubicle.
Pc Paul Hughes arrived at the hospital with Pc Samantha Goodwin to provide back up to two officers who were already attending the incident at around midnight.
Pc Hughes said that when he arrived at the scene there were two police officers pushing against the cubicle door, which was slightly ajar, so Mr Massey could not close it.
“The door was slightly ajar and I could see lots of glass smashed on the floor,” he said.
“At some stage I noticed that Mr Massey was holding a sharp implement (a shard of glass) and he was jabbing it downwards towards the officers through the gap in the door.”
Officers kept pressure on the door leaving a small gap so they could continue reassuring Mr Massey who had been smashing glass and shouting ‘get the police’ repeatedly.
But the door eventually collapsed and after officers entered the room they used the door to pin Mr Massey’s hand against the wall and then struck him on the arm with a baton so he dropped the shard of glass.
Pc Hughes had briefly retreated from the incident to radio for back up shields but returned to find the door had come off its hinges and the CS gas spray had been deployed.
“We managed to pull him out of the room and into the corridor, Mr Massey was still struggling, shouting and swearing,” added Pc Hughes.
Mr Massey was then pushed to the ground by officers and he was then handcuffed, turned on his side and then brought up into the sitting position by officers and leant against the corridor wall.
Mr Massey then asked the officers for help and he was then given oxygen to help his heavy breathing – but he tried to resist the oxygen mask and tried to bite through its elastic.
Medical staff then sedated Mr Massey, but shortly afterwards he went into cardiac arrest and died minutes later.
“From the time that I was there I feared that Mr Massey might do harm to himself, we have a duty of care to the public and we had a duty of care to Mr Massey,” said Pc Hughes.
“We feared that Mr Massey may be self-harming, we wanted him out, we wanted him safe.”
The jury was told that none of the officers had sought information about Mr Massey’s medical condition on their arrival.
When asked about this Pc Hughes said that a broad overview of Mr Massey’s condition could have been gained during the incident which lasted around six to seven minutes.
Pc Steven Barnett was the first officer on the scene and told the inquest that he had sprayed Mr Massey with gas as a pre-emptive strike because it was seen a safer option on Mr Massey as it took 20 minutes to recover from.
Insp Nicholas Sutcliffe, of Metropolitan Police, told the jury he thought the police officers has acted appropriately as part of their conflict management training.
He said that putting people on the floor face down prevented them from kicking or running away and enabled officers to apply handcuffs, but the person should be moved onto their side and then into an upright position as soon as possible.
When asked about the use of CS gas spray, he said: “The officer elected to use CS spray because it is potentially less injurious than a baton strike, such decisions like this have to be made in seconds.
“The actions of the police were consistent with the training they would have received.”
Earlier in the week, a nurse told the inquest that she could not carry out chest compressions properly on Mr Massey because he was still in police handcuffs when he suffered a heart attack.
Night matron Anna Scott said she asked officers to remove the handcuffs so she could try to revive Mr Massey.
“I started chest compressions but they did not feel right so I asked them to be removed which was done very quickly by a police officer,” she said.
Mrs Scott told the inquest she had not briefed the officers about Mr Massey’s severe pancreatitis prior to them spraying him with CS gas.
“I told them he was unwell and that he needed to be taken out of the cubicle urgently, I also told them he needed oxygen,” she added.
She said that when Mr Massey had been slumped against the corridor wall he engaged in conversation with her and said he was looking forward to his daughter’s wedding.
A post-mortem examination found the cause of his death was a cardiac arrest following restraint, combined with acute pancreatitis and Tramadol administration.
The jury at the inquest at Nottingham Coroner’s Court was considering its verdict as the Advertiser went to press.