Thursday, October 12, 2006

Another Black death in custody

THE INDEPENDENT Police Complaints Commission is investigating the death of Frank Ogburo, a 43-year-old Nigerian who was visiting Woolwich in south east London last month and who died while being arrested.
Police were called to a disturbance at the Vista block of flats in Woolwich town centre at 10.30 pm on Wednesday 27th September. Police say that during the arrest Ogburo became unwell and stopped breathing. They called an ambulance; paramedics tried to revive him but he was dead before he arrived at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital on Woolwich Common. shouting
One resident of the block of flats said: “I could hear shouting from above my flat and then a while later I looked out of my window, which looks on to Calderwood Street. There were lots of policemen and I could see a black man trying to run off up the road.”
Eltham MP Clive Efford described the death as “a shocking tragedy, which requires a thorough investigation by the IPCC”.Meanwhile Frank Ogburo’s wife Christine was awaiting his return to Lagos. She told reporters: “I want to know what killed my husband”.
The case has grim resonances of another death in the same borough just two years ago when young black fitness instructor Paul Coker died in mysterious circumstances while being arrested by the same local police force. And it was this police force, based at Plumstead Police Station, that failed to investigate properly the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence a decade ago.
Paul came from a mixed family – an African father and English mother. He had been arrested, allegedly for causing a disturbance, subdued by several police officers and then put in a cell. The next thing the family knew was that the police were informing them that Paul was dead – with no explanation of how it happened.
Paul’s father Sam Coker was a former councillor and political activist who had been among many at an anti-racist meeting at nearby Welling library that was attacked by British National Party thugs. Sam, a former army PT instructor, had leapt out of an upstairs window in order to grapple with a couple of fascists in the street below. Paul also kept himself very fit.
Paul Coker had won a compensation case against the police six years before his death and had initiated a second legal action against the prison service, claiming he had been assaulted by a prison officer while serving a one-year sentence for burglary.
There have been 151 deaths in custody since 1993.