THE FAMILY of a man who died in police custody have spoken of their “grave concerns” over the investigation into his death and have called for the officers involved to be suspended.
Sheku Bayoh, 31, from Kirkcaldy, died following his arrest in in the Fife town at 8am on 3 May.
The Police Investigations and Review Commissioner is currently carrying out an investigation into the death of the father-of-two, who moved to the UK from Sierra Leone at the age of 11.
His relatives and partner, represented by lawyer Aamer Anwar, have claimed they have been told five different versions of what happened during the incident and that 11 police officers were involved in his restraint.
It is understood that he was pepper-sprayed while being restrained.
The Scottish Police Federation (SPF) has criticised “speculation and innuendo” over how Mr Bayoh died, stating that the female officer who first responded to the call was subject to a “violent and unprovoked assault” by a male brandishing a knife that caused her to believe “she was going to die as a result”.
At a press conference in Edinburgh yesterday, Mr Anwar said Mr Bayoh, who was training to become a British Gas engineer, was a “well-liked, peaceful and healthy young man” who had no previous history of violence.
Mr Anwar said: “The family does not understand why the officers involved in engaging with Sheku Bayoh were not immediately suspended without prejudice after his death.
“It is a matter of wider public concern that officers remain at their desks or in contact with the public pending the outcome of the investigation into a death in custody.”
Mr Bayoh’s partner Collette Bell, who is mother to his four-month-old son, described Mr Bayoh as her “soulmate and best friend”.
“He was kind, caring and affectionate, and had so many aspirations,” she said. “He was working hard to make a better future for our family and we had so much to look forward to.”
His sister, Kadijartu Johnson, told the press conference: “Several versions of events were given to my family for several hours after his death until finally we were told he had died in police custody in early evening. All we are asking for is the truth of what actually happened to my brother Sheku on the morning of Sunday 3 May.”
Mr Anwar refused to reveal the exact circumstances surrounding his arrest and why the police had tried to detain him.
Brian Docherty, chairman of the SPF, said: “We recognise that the family of Sheku Bayoh is mourning his death and that this is a painful process. The SPF does not wish to add to that pain by making unhelpful comments to the press. We are saddened that his legal representatives appear not to take the same approach.
“We are also saddened that his legal representatives are inferring police officers should not have the same legal protections as any other member of the public.”