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Family of Leon Briggs will never get over his death, inquest hears

The Guardian - Wed Jan 13 19:16

The family of a man who died after being restrained by police in Luton will never be able to get over his death, an inquest has been told.

The inquest into the death of Leon Briggs, a 39-year-old father of two from a mixed ethnic background, opened on Wednesday before the senior coroner for Bedfordshire and Luton, Emma Whitting, seven years after he died.

Leon Briggs
Leon Briggs’ mother sought help for him from various mental health services who said that not much could be done unless he voluntarily agreed to get help. Photograph: sbna/South Beds News Agency

A witness statement from his mother, Margaret Briggs, described the lorry driver, who also taught computer skills to older people, as a “caring and genuine” man and “a loving brother”.

On 4 November 2013, police were called to reports of a man behaving unusually in the street. When officers arrived they restrained him and detained him under the Mental Health Act. East of England ambulance service arrived shortly afterwards.

Briggs was transported in the back of a police van to Luton police station where he was placed in a cell. He became unresponsive and an ambulance was called to take him to Luton and Dunstable hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Margaret Briggs’ statement charted a severe deterioration in her son’s mental health in the months and weeks before he died. She said that although he had gone through low periods previously there had not been anything like his mental state towards the end of his life where he “started to behave strangely” and believed that people were shining lights into his bedroom, putting spiders through the letterbox at his mother’s home, and trying to kill him.

At one point he urged his mother to call the police and showed officers what he said was footage of this he had recorded on his laptop. Police said they could not see anything on the computer. He replied: “Can you see the devil coming out of the screen?”

His mother sought help for him from various mental health services who said that not much could be done unless he voluntarily agreed to get help.

On the day of his death he had agreed to go to hospital to seek help for his mental health problems. His mother could not find him and after a search was told he was at hospital.

She hurried there and after a long wait was told by doctors that although they had tried to resuscitate him for 20 minutes, he had died.

“Leon’s passing away has devastated our family,” she said in her witness statement. “The last seven years has been a real nightmare. I don’t think any of us will be able to get over it. We have waited so long to get some answers about what happened to him on the day he died and the wait has added to our pain.”

The coroner told the jury that a pathologist had found Briggs’ cause of death to be due to “amphetamine intoxication, prone restraint and prolonged struggling”.

Anita Sharma, the head of casework at the charity Inquest, which is supporting the Briggs family, said: “Leon’s family have endured seven years of protracted investigations and legal processes. They now turn to the inquest to provide the utmost scrutiny of the circumstances of his death.”