Police watchdog investigate Bethlem patient death
A police watchdog is investigating the death of a Masters student who slipped into a coma after being restrained by officers at a mental hospital.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission announced on Tuesday it is looking into how Seni Lewis, 23, died after being admitted to Bethlem Hospital on August 31.
He had no history of mental health issues but was admitted voluntarily after his friends and family became concerned by his erratic behaviour two days earlier.
Bromley police were called to the hospital, the world’s oldest mental health institution, in Monks Orchard Road, Beckenham, at around 9.30pm.
The Kingston University student was allegedly causing a disturbance and staff asked officers to restrain him but he collapsed and became seriously unwell while they were doing it.
He was given CPR and was taken by ambulance to Croydon Hospital but he was pronounced brain dead three days later on September 3. His life support machine was switched off the next day.
His family are working with organisation INQUEST which provides advice service about investigations into contentious deaths.
Co-director of INQUEST Deborah Coles, who is working with the family and their lawyer, said: “This is a deeply disturbing death and it is vital both for the family and the public that there is a rigorous, far-reaching investigation into the fatal restraint of a vulnerable man in need of care and protection.”
IPCC Commissioner Rachel Cerfontyne said: “I cannot even begin to imagine how difficult this must be for this young man’s family. The IPCC is looking into the police response to determine whether or not it was proportionate and reasonable in all the circumstances.”
The cause of death was not determined at the preliminary autopsy and further investigations, including histology and toxicology are being done.
A spokesperson for South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust said: “We would like to extend our sincere condolences to the family of the deceased. The Trust is investigating the incident as a priority and is working closely with the police. It would not be appropriate for us to comment further at this stage.”
Bromley police said it couldn’t comment on the death because it is the subject of an investigation.
An inquest was opened and adjourned at Croydon Coroner’s Court on Monday.