Mother of Olaseni Lewis hopeful of 'closure' after High Court ruling
PUBLISHED: 12:07 10 September 2013 | UPDATED: 12:07 10 September 2013
Three years ago Ajibola Lewis was devastated when her 23-year-old son Seni died after being restrained by police at Bethlem Royal Hospital in Beckenham.
The Kingston University graduate, known as Seni, had no history of mental health issues but was voluntarily admitted to the hospital, in Monks Orchard Road, on August 23, 2010, when others became concerned by his erratic behaviour two days earlier.
On the evening of his admission, staff felt it was necessary to call police to restrain him. His restraint led to him slipping into a coma and he was pronounced brain dead three days later. His life support machine was switched off the following day.
Ever since his family have campaigned to find out what happened to him.
They took their case to the High Court and last week won a battle to re-open an inquiry to examine the role of 11 officers in his death.
Ajibola, 63, is now hopeful that she can finally have “closure” and that this ruling will be the first step in “putting things to rest”.
She said: “We just want justice. It’s been hard for all the family because it’s been a constant battle. It shouldn’t be like that.
“The correct thing now has to be done and it should have been done three years ago. The police were not questioned under caution and that will happen now. There will be a thorough and robust investigation and then we will see.
“I really just want to know what happened on that day to my son. I would like to know the truth.”
An original inquiry by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) did not examine whether any of the officers had committed a criminal offence or interview any of them under caution.
The officers gave written statements but their accounts were never tested.
In its report two years ago, the IPCC decided that no criminal charges were necessary.
Speaking after last week’s High Court ruling, Seni’s elder sister, Kemi, 34, said she was “shocked” by the outcome.
“I was surprised. I didn’t realise how big it was until my mum explained it all. It’s quite a major achievement and it’s a proud moment for us.
“I hope it will poke someone’s conscience and they will come forward to say what happened. I hope we get the truth sooner rather than later.”
Her younger brother was a big role model for her son, Manasseh, who was just seven when his uncle died.
She said: “It’s funny when you see someone through a child’s eyes. He has an image of a big, cuddly person and can’t understand why he is not here anymore.”
The Lewis family now have the full backing of the IPCC which says it is “determined” to conduct a robust re-investigation in order to understand what happened to Seni.
Rachel Cerfontyne, IPCC deputy chairman, said the High Court ruling brings them a “step closer” to providing answers.
“We have written to the Metropolitan Police Service drawing their attention to the High Court ruling and now expect them to expeditiously record the conduct matters so that we can proceed with our investigation.”
For Ajibola the fight isn’t yet over. The process has been mentally and physically draining, and the mother of three is hopeful she will soon be able to remember her son without the added stress of courts. She said: “I keep going because I know he wouldn’t give up on me, and I won’t give up on him.”