Friday, April 17, 2009

The results of a second autopsy conducted on Ian Tomlinson, the man who died during the recent G20 demonstrations in London, have turned the entire case in another direction. The family of Mr. Tomlinson demanded a second autopsy with an independent pathologist, and this second procedure determined that Mr. Tomlinson died of "massive abdominal haemorrhage" rather than the heart attack claimed by the first examination. Here's an editorial from today's Guardian about what this means.
Ian Tomlinson: Death at the demo:
The Guardian,
Two months have passed since photographing policemen in a wide range of circumstances was criminalised. During that time video footage of the G20 demonstrations has revealed just how important it is to keep the force under surveillance. Among other things, officers have been caught on camera concealing their identity badges and lashing out at a female protester. More importantly still, it has emerged - contrary to initial police claims - that the one man to die at the event had felt the lash of the law.

Ian Tomlinson was a newspaper seller trying to get home who got caught up in the police operation. It was initially said that he had had no contact with police and had succumbed to a heart attack. But the Guardian obtained footage of an officer attacking him from behind and an independent inquiry was launched. A second postmortem, whose provisional findings were released yesterday, concluded that he had died as a result of an abdominal haemorrhage. The unease is only heightened by the Guardian's previous revelation that the doctor who carried out the first check had previously been professionally reprimanded for releasing medical details about another man who had died controversially in police custody.

The cause of Mr Tomlinson's bleeding may not yet have been established, but two things are no longer in doubt. First, that he fell to the floor soon after receiving a blow; and second, that his case injects new urgency into the whole argument about the police operation. In respect of the former, in the light of a policeman being interviewed on suspicion of manslaughter yesterday, the immediate issues are for the Independent Police Complaints Commission and the Crown Prosecution Service. In respect of the latter, everyone who can influence policing must now consider whether public order procedures need to be overhauled.

The announced review by the inspector of constabulary, Denis O'Connor - a policeman of some 40 years' standing - is no longer sufficient. Techniques such as kettling - forcibly containing protesters for hours at a time - must now be scrutinised in a more independent investigation led by a judge. The beleaguered home secretary may prefer to keep her head down, but it is attendant on her to give a lead. So too must Boris Johnson. London's mayor appointed himself head of the police authority, and has used the role to take a high profile when it suited him, as when he manoeuvred against the former commissioner, Sir Ian Blair. The uncharacteristic reticence he has shown on the handling of the G20 protests will no longer do.

The protests have conclusively shown that - without proper scrutiny - agents of law and order can soon become a law unto themselves.
Here's another item from the Guardian, one that raises questions about the quality of the first post-mortem.
The doctors in the Ian Tomlinson case:
a tale of two pathologists:
Audrey Gillan
The Guardian,
Dr Nathaniel Cary:
Cary, who performed the second postmortem and concluded that Ian Tomlinson died of abdominal haemorrhage, is one of the country's top pathologists. He has garnered fame for conducting follow-up autopsies that show inadequacies in tests originally carried out by others in his profession.

He questioned the findings that the Pakistan cricket coach Bob Woolmer had been murdered in his hotel room in Jamaica, concluding this was wrong. After carrying out a second autopsy he ruled that Woolmer had died of heart failure.

Cary was also employed to investigate the death of Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto in a bomb attack in Rawalpindi after it was claimed she had been killed by a bullet wound. Cary wrote that the rapidly fatal head injury was sustained because of the bomb blast. And he was employed by the family of Harold Shipman to carry out his own inquiry into the death of the former GP turned serial killer who was found hanged in his cell. Cary said Shipman's death "could have been murder".

Dr Freddy Patel:
Patel, who conducted the first postmortem and concluded that Ian Tomlinson had died of a heart attack, was once reprimanded about his professional conduct by the General Medical Council after he released medical details about Roger Sylvester, a 30-year-old black man who died in police custody.

He told reporters: "I am aware from the medical records ... that Mr Sylvester was a user of crack cocaine." Sylvester's family were devastated by the suggestion and contested that he been a user.

In a second case, which raised questions about Dr Patel's findings, police dropped a criminal investigation after the pathologist gave it as his opinion that the victim, Sally White, had died of natural causes. Anthony Hardy, a psychiatrically-disturbed alcoholic, who lived in the flat where the body was found, went on to murder two other women and mutilate their bodies.
Here's yet another article from the Guardian, filling in further details about the case. One of the things that Molly found disturbing about the first article was the news (to me at least) that photographing policemen in Britain has been made illegal. One of the ironies of this event was that the person who videotaped the attack on Mr. Tomlinson was a "hedge fund manager from New York". This is doubly ironic. First because this is the sort of person that most of the demonstrators would be opposed to, and secondly because, if his act was illegal in Britain it is doubtful that the British government could prosecute him from across the Atlantic.
G20 death:
'This might have been swept under the rug' - eyewitness:
• Second pathologist results known for a week
• Crucial witness feels video evidence is vindicated
Sandra Laville and Paul Lewis
The Guardian,
As he sat down in his office in New York yesterday, the hedge fund manager who filmed the moment a police officer clashed violently with Ian Tomlinson digested the latest revelations.
He has chosen to remain anonymous but has been observing events from across the Atlantic. Informed by the Guardian that the second postmortem had found Mr Tomlinson died not of a heart attack but abdominal haemorrhage, he said he was relieved he had stepped forward as a witness.

"Judging by the short amount of time that lapsed between him being hit and pushed to the ground and him collapsing and dying, it just seemed to be too coincidental that it was called a heart attack," he said.

"Now I'm glad I came forward. It's possible Mr Tomlinson's death would have been swept under the rug otherwise. There was nothing except some witnesses speaking to the Guardian saying they saw him being beaten. But it was their statements versus the police. You needed something incontrovertible. In this case it was the video."

The Independent Police Complaints Commission, the Tomlinson family and lawyers have had the results of the second postmortem, carried out by Dr Nat Carey, for a week. The interval between discovering the findings - which differed starkly from the heart attack conclusion of the Home Office pathologist Dr Freddy Patel - and announcing them publicly gave investigators from the IPCC a chance to press on with its inquiry.

In the past few days, the police officer seen assaulting Tomlinson in the hedge fund manager's footage has been interviewed under caution on suspicion of manslaughter by investigators from the police watchdog.

They were concerned the findings of the postmortem be withheld in order not to prejudice their first interrogation of the officer involved.

The territorial support group officer, currently on sick leave, is understood to have had his solicitor present throughout the interview. He was not arrested as he had agreed to the interview under caution. The IPCC would not comment on the next step in its investigation but it is likely the officer, who was suspended by the Met last Friday, will return to be interviewed at a later date.

Until then, IPCC investigators will continue to trawl through video footage from demonstrators and passersby and still photographs presented to them by the Guardian as well as CCTV images which, until this week, they believed had not existed. All of these and the findings of the postmortem will make up any case against the officer.

But a legal source said it was a complicated investigation. "There are all sorts of people coming forward and you need to establish where they were, what exactly they saw and what the footage shows," the source said.

The IPCC has spoken to the Crown Prosecution Service but, as yet, it has not passed a file of evidence to prosecutors for consideration of charges. A source said it would be some time before that took place. Charges would only be considered once lawyers from the specialist crime division of the CPS have studied all the evidence gathered by the IPCC.

As the findings of Carey's postmortem passed through Scotland Yard, there was shock and concern, but also among senior police officers well-versed in the intricacies of manslaughter and murder investigations, there was an awareness the results left much room for debate and legal argument.

Carey said the cause of the abdominal haemorrhage had yet to be ascertained but he unequivocally ruled out a heart attack as a result of coronary artery disease as the cause of death.

Scotland Yard said the Metropolitan police wished to "reiterate its sincere regret in relation to the death of Ian Tomlinson".

"Our thoughts are with his family, and all those affected by this tragedy," it added. "We continue to cooperate fully with the IPCC and proactively provide any information that may assist them. We await the findings of the investigation."

But there was an immediate reaction from politicians to the second postmortem result with demands that the inquiry be pursued as a matter of urgency.

Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, described it as an "alarming finding". He added: "It suggests that Mr Tomlinson's treatment by the police officer caught on video may have been the final contributing factor in his death. These findings put further pressure on the IPCC to investigate this matter with all urgency."

Boris Johnson, the London mayor and chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority, urged the IPCC to be open and quick. "There must now be a fast and transparent conclusion to the IPCC investigation, with the full and urgent cooperation of all involved," he said.

"It is vital that everyone takes care not to prejudice either the ongoing IPCC investigation or indeed any future criminal proceedings that may arise.

"The Met receive and deserve the overwhelming support of the people of London, but the family of Ian Tomlinson need answers and so do Londoners."

At their home in the Isle of Dogs, east London, the Tomlinson family were finally able to see what they have known for a week played out publicly.

Their solicitor, Jules Carey, said it was some comfort that the record of how Mr Tomlinson died was now being put straight.

Paul King, one of Mr Tomlinson's sons, summed up the family's feelings. "Coming to terms with the idea that Ian died of natural causes - what we were told at the beginning - was hard enough," he said. "This puts a whole new light on the investigation. He died from internal bleeding."
Finally, here's an item from The Scotsman about the legal possibilities that the policeman who assaulted Mr. Tomlinson could face. When this news first became public Molly opened a poll at her sister site Molly's Polls. The question was "What should be done with the policeman who assaulted Ian Tomlinson shorty before he died ?" One person so far has actually chosen the "nothing" option. What is your opinion ? If the person who voted "nothing" he or she should note that they can change their vote. As each piece of new information comes in the case against the officer in question looks more and more damning.
It should also be noted that ,whatever the outcome of the criminal aspects of this case, the Tomlinson family would be fully within their rights to initiate a civil tort for "wrongful death". If you are unfamiliar with this legal remedy there is a Wikipedia article on it. The sterling example of this aspect of the law was the O.J. Simpson case.
G20 policeman faces manslaughter charge after vendor 'bled to death':

THE police officer caught on camera striking a man during the G20 protests could face manslaughter charges after it was revealed last night that the victim died of internal bleeding.

A second post-mortem examination, carried out at the request of the family of Ian Tomlinson, found he suffered an "internal haemorrhage" and not a heart attack, as thought.
The police constable captured on video footage hitting Mr Tomlinson with his baton was suspended from duty. But it has now emerged the officer was interviewed under suspicion of killing the newspaper vendor, who died after being struck and pushed forcefully to the ground as made his way home.
A solicitor acting for Mr Tomlinson's family said the findings of the second post-mortem examination significantly increased the chances that the unnamed officer would face a manslaughter charge. Further tests on Mr Tomlinson's body have now been ordered as it remains unclear whether the attack caused his death on 1 April after he got caught up in the anti-capitalist demonstrations in London's financial district.
A spokesman for the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which has taken control of the investigation into the death of the 47-year-old, said: "Following the initial results of the second post-mortem, a Metropolitan Police officer has been interviewed under caution for the offence of manslaughter as part of an ongoing inquiry into the death of Ian Tomlinson.
"Results from the second post-mortem were kept private for a week to avoid their release prejudicing the questioning of the officer. Though they remain provisional, they open the possibility that Mr Tomlinson's death was caused to some degree by police involvement.
Mr Tomlinson's stepson, Paul King, said: "First we were told that there had been no contact with the police, then we were told that he died of a heart attack; now we know that he was violently assaulted by a police officer and died from internal bleeding. As time goes on, we hope that the full truth about how Ian died will be made known.
"Chris Huhne MP, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: "This is an alarming finding. It suggests that Mr Tomlinson's treatment by the police officer caught on video may have been the final contributing factor in his death.
"Public anger at the police handling of the demonstrations in London's financial district has grown with the publication of video and photographic evidence. The IPCC has received 145 complaints, 70 relating to excess violence. The Met has itself asked the IPCC to look into the case of Nicola Fisher, 35, a protester who was seen on YouTube being hit in the face by an officer, and struck with a steel baton on her leg.
The initial post-mortem examination, by Dr Freddy Patel, concluded that Mr Tomlinson died of coronary artery disease. But the second, ordered by the IPCC and Mr Tomlinson's family and carried out by Dr Nat Cary, gave the cause of death as abdominal haemorrhage.
A statement from the City of London coroner's court said that the findings of both post-mortem examinations remained "provisional". It said that Dr Cary had found evidence of "coronary atherosclerosis" – thickening of the arteries – but said this was "unlikely" to have contributed to the cause of death. "The cause of the haemorrhage remains to be ascertained," the statement said.
Last night, one medical expert said Mr Tomlinson's rough treatment by police could easily have led to the internal bleeding that allegedly killed him.
Dr Charles O'Donnell, consultant in emergency and intensive care at Whipps Cross University Hospital in London, said it was quite possible that a pre-existing condition had left Mr Tomlinson vulnerable to the effects of a physical assault.
"For people predisposed to internal bleeding due to an infection or liver disease, a blow is very commonly associated with abdominal haemorrhage," he said. "It might only take a small thump, which in a healthy individual would not do any harm.
"However, Professor Simon Herrington of Bute Medical School at St Andrews University, said the finding that death had been caused by abdominal haemorrhage was not specific enough to determine whether it had occurred naturally or as a result of the attack.
Jules Carey, the Tomlinson family's solicitor, said the video footage of the "unprovoked and vicious assault" would easily justify assault charges being brought against the officer.
Mr Carey added: "The findings of Dr Nat Cary significantly increase the likelihood that the officer will now face the more serious charge of manslaughter.
"The family have been made aware of the findings of the second pathology report for a week and have had to endure the holding back of this information, despite continuing reports in the press that Ian died of a heart attack."
Inquiry hangs in balance after tests conflict on cause of death
FURTHER tests will be carried out on Ian Tomlinson's body after two post-mortem examinations came to differing conclusions about what caused his death.
The issue is central to the investigation into claims that Mr Tomlinson's seemingly accidental encounter with police was to blame for his collapse and subsequent death minutes later.
The first inquest, by Home Office pathologist Dr Freddy Patel, found Mr Tomlinson's heart and liver to be in a "diseased" state.
He also found a "substantial amount of blood" in his stomach but gave the cause of death as coronary artery disease.
The second, by another Home Office pathologist, Dr Nat Cary, said Mr Tomlinson's heart disease was "unlikely" to have caused his death and blamed "abdominal haemorrhage".
However, this can be caused by many factors – including physical assault.
"It's well within the realms of possibility. The question is where the bleeding was from," said Dr Charles O'Donnell, of Whipps Cross University Hospital in London.
"Some things commonly respond to trauma and some don't. For people predisposed to internal bleeding due to an infection or liver disease, a blow is very commonly associated with abdominal haemorrhage.
"It might only take a small thump which in a healthy individual would not do any harm," Dr O'Donnell added.

1 comment:

Renegade Eye said...

The varying diagnosises, are worlds apart. I vote for the second.

It's illegal now to photograph public transportation in London now.