BY TOBY PORTER
A police watchdog has cleared officers over the arrest of a man who had swallowed drugs, and as a result, later died in hospital.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is re-emphasising the dangers of swallowing packages of drugs, after the inquest into the death of Oghene Abboh, from Manciple Street, Bermondsey returned a narrative verdict on Wednesday.
The probe was launched following the death of Mr Abboh on March 31, 2018 and concluded in December 2018 that no officers breached standards of professional behaviour. But those findings had not been revealed until now.
The IOPC found the Met officers involved were polite, informative, respectful and courteous throughout their dealings with Mr Abboh.
The officers followed correct policies, made efforts to help Mr Abboh as soon as they feared he may have swallowed drugs and continuously tried to convince him to reveal to medical staff what he had swallowed so they could properly treat him.
IOPC regional director Sal Naseem said: “The death of Mr Abboh was tragic and my thoughts are with his family, friends and all those affected.
“This death once again reveals the huge dangers in people trying to conceal illegal drugs from police by swallowing them.
“Our investigation revealed that despite officers’ best efforts both before and after Mr Abboh ingested drugs, they and the medical staff who attended him were unable to save his life.”
The 26-year-old was stopped and searched by police officers in at about 11am, March 30, 2018.
During the search Mr Abboh was handcuffed in the “front stack position” – in other words with his hands in front of him – to ensure he was as comfortable as possible.
An illegal pocket knife was found in his car and he was arrested and transported to custody.
CCTV footage showed Mr Abboh reached to his waistband and potentially retrieved an item while he was being arrested. CCTV later shows a white item visible in his mouth.
Officers realised and Mr Abboh was restrained and repeatedly instructed to spit the item out – but he appeared to swallow it.
Officers called an ambulance and he was strip-searched while they waited for it to arrive.
Mr Abboh was repeatedly told to tell medical staff if he had swallowed something as his life might be in danger – but Mr Abboh denied swallowing anything.
Mr Abboh’s behaviour suddenly changed in the ambulance.
Officers told medics and again asked him to tell doctors what he had swallowed, even moving out of earshot to try and give him the confidence to do so.
Mr Abboh’s condition deteriorated as he was treated by medical staff, but he died the following morning.
The IOPC has previously issued a warning over the dangers of swallowing drugs when being arrested and detained by police after the deaths of Peter Jonathan and Darren Hunt in Wales.
Other cases that have resulted in individuals dying after swallowing drugs include Rashan Charles and Edir Frederico Da Costa in London, Carl Maynard in Kent, Raymond Knight in Essex and Nuno Cardoso and Leroy Medford in the Thames Valley region.
Mr Naseem added: “We work hard with police forces to ensure officers are trained on best practice when it is suspected that a person may have swallowed an item.
“However, when someone chooses to swallow an item to try and hide it from the police they risk fatal consequences and this can never be a worthwhile gamble to take.”