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Edson Da Costa inquest: Young father's death a result of 'misadventure', jury concludes

PUBLISHED: 11:19 07 June 2019 | UPDATED: 16:09 07 June 2019

Edson Da Costa. Picture: Submitted

Edson Da Costa. Picture: Submitted

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The death of a young father following a restraint by police was the result of "misadventure", a jury has concluded.

Edson as a baby with his father Ginario Da Costa and mother Manuela Araujo, who died suddenly in August 2017. Picture: Da Costa familyEdson as a baby with his father Ginario Da Costa and mother Manuela Araujo , who died suddenly in August 2017. Picture: Da Costa family

Edir Da Costa, known as Edson, of Wilton Way, Hackney, was taken to hospital after being stopped and searched by officers in the Woodcocks estate, Beckton, on June 15, 2017.

He died six days later.

At an inquest into the 25-year-old's death, the jury on Thursday also noted that Edson "died from the consequences of cardiorespiratory arrest after his upper airway was obstructed by a plastic bag containing drugs he had placed in his mouth".

Ginario Da Costa, Edson's father, said: "Edir's passing has left a huge hole in our lives. Seeing him with his little boy made me so proud, but now his son will have to grow up without his father.

"Losing Edir has broken my heart. We will forever feel that if things had been done differently his life may have been saved."

He added that hearing details of the last moments of Edson's life had been extremely traumatic for the family and something they would never forget.

The inquest heard that, during the stop and search, Edson was restrained by four officers.

He was held in a prone position face down on the ground, handcuffed with his arms behind his back, hit by two distraction blows, with two applications of a "mandibular angle" restraint technique - applying pressure on a nerve near Edson's jaw - and CS spray used a pen's length away from his face.

The jury also heard that Edson's struggles could have been a bid either to escape or to breathe.

Mr Da Costa said: "It is hugely upsetting to us that the unarmed officers did not identify the risk he might be choking.

"We find it very worrying that Edir was thought to be breathing normally when he does not appear to have been."

During the month-long inquest at Walthamstow Coroner's Court, the jury heard that a Met emergency call handler gave the London Ambulance Service the wrong address, leading to a delay in paramedics arriving.

"We cannot help but wonder whether Edir would still be here had the police identified the risk of Edir choking earlier and taken steps to help him," Mr Da Costa said.

In a statement, the Met said there had been no criticism in the verdict of the five unnamed officers.

Met commander Dave Musker said: "The death of anyone after involvement with police is a matter of regret and we welcome the range of independent processes that exist to provide scrutiny of the facts.

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"Our thoughts and sympathies remain with Mr Da Costa's family and friends."

He added the jury's findings matched the conclusions of an Independent Office for Police Conduct investigation which found the five officers acted correctly in "very difficult circumstances".

The IOPC found no evidence of gross misconduct in relation to how the officers dealt with Edson.

Cmdr Musker said: "The inquest heard evidence that Mr Da Costa had chosen to swallow 88 wraps of controlled drugs wrapped in a plastic bag in the course of being stopped to avoid detection by police.

"This was not immediately apparent to the officers involved. It is clear that swallowing drugs is a lethally dangerous thing to do."

"[The officers] were justified in stopping him and his restraint was necessary and proportionate. The investigation also found discrimination played no part."

A call for managers to take action against four of the officers was accepted following the IOPC recommendations, he added.

One officer was reprimanded over a comment made at the scene when he stated it "did not seem normal" for a young, black woman - who was stopped along with Edson and one other man in a Mercedes - to be driving such an expensive car.

Action was also taken over officers failing to call an ambulance promptly and the level of detail provided about Edson's condition.

One officer also attended an internal misconduct hearing over his use of CS spray.

Edson is one of five young black men who died within a six-month period following police restraints, according to the charity Inquest.

It slammed the tactics the officers and Met's legal teams employed during Edson's inquest.

Deborah Coles, Inquest's director, said she believed "a hostile environment was created through the defensive and combative tactics of police lawyers, who sought to narrow lines of inquiry and divert attention away from the circumstances that resulted in Edir's death.

"This adversarial approach must not be tolerated as it fundamentally undermines the ability of an inquest to seek the truth."

Susie Labinjoh, head of civil liberties at Hodge & Allen, representing the family, said the inquest highlighted concerns about how police respond to people suspected of placing drugs in their mouths.

"A great deal needs to be done, both with officers on the street and those in the control room, to ensure tragedies like this do not happen again," she added.

But Cmdr Musker said updated guidance from the College of Policing is being incorporated into officer safety training.

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