Officers used an unsuitable amount of force while restraining talented musician Sean Rigg, an inquest into his death has found.
Rigg, 40, died of a cardiac arrest at Brixton Police Station, in August 2008, after being restrained in the prone position by officers for more than eight minutes.
A jury at Southwark Coroner’s Court yesterday returned the damning narrative verdict on Mr Rigg’s death in custody.
Coroner Andrew Harris said: “The level of force used on Sean Rigg whilst he was restrained in the prone position at the Weir estate was unsuitable.
“In addition, there was an absence of leadership. This led to a failure to take appropriate control of the situation.”
In a statement released yesterday, Mr Rigg’s family said: “The evidence we have heard has left us in no doubt that Sean died as a result of the wilful neglect of those who were meant to care for him and keep him safe.
“If the South London and Maudsley Trust had done their job properly and provided the care and help that Sean urgently needed, he would be alive today. If the police had not ignored repeated 999 calls from the hostel, and taken Sean to the hospital as they should have done, he would be alive today.
Mr Rigg, who suffered from Schizophrenia, had attacked a couple with karate moves after leaving his hostel in Fairmount Road. He had not taken his medication.
Deborah Coles, co-director of the charity inquest said: “Sean Rigg was a vulnerable man in need of help and protection and yet he was failed by all those who should have been there to protect him.
“The inquest uncovered a litany of appalling failures by mental health services and the Metropolitan Police, outlined in the damning jury narrative.
“It also raises serious concerns about policing culture and practice where a man so obviously unwell was restrained in the prone position for eight minutes, became unresponsive, and yet was taken to a police station rather than a hospital, and left to die on the floor.”
The jury also criticized South London and Maudsley NHS trust (SLAM) which, it said, failed to carry out adequate mental health assessments or ensure Mr Rigg took his medication.
Assistant commissioner Simon Byrne, of the Met Police, said: “It is clear from what the jury said and our own conclusions that the way we handled the calls about Sean’s behaviour let us down and set off a series of events that resulted in him being taken ill whilst being restrained and dying in police custody.
Byrne added: “Our officers deal with challenging situations every day and in this case they responded to a difficult set of circumstances.
“We have clear policies and procedures in place for dealing with these situations and work with a wide range of organisations to improve our care of such vulnerable people.”