Father was restrained 'with knee on his back', police officer tells inquest
- Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY/PA WIRE
A police officer who arrested a father-of-three at a holiday park told an inquest he witnessed two security guards putting a knee on the suspect's back.
Paul Reynolds, 38, from Colchester, died after being restrained at Pontins Pakefield near Lowestoft on Valentine’s Day 2017.
PC Richard Warne, of Suffolk Constabulary, said in a statement read to Tuesday’s hearing in Ipswich he and fellow officer PC Katie Picken were called to an alleged assault at the park at 11.40pm that day.
He told area coroner Jacqueline Devonish the pair walked in and were told Mr Reynolds had assaulted a security guard after a disagreement with another guest.
PC Warne described entering the park’s ballroom where he saw two security officers kneeling down next to Mr Reynolds, who was being restrained in a seating area.
He said one guard PC Picken recognised as David Foster was kneeling next to Mr Reynolds and had his left knee on his back, and was holding Mr Reynolds’ arm in a wrist lock behind his back.
A second security guard was knelt down on Mr Reynolds’ right side, PC Warne said, adding that he believed this officer also had one knee on the middle area of Mr Reynolds’ back.
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He said a third man was at Mr Reynolds’ feet, and had his “feet crossed and bent back into his calves”, in what PC Warne recognised as another restraining technique.
PC Picken, who also gave evidence to Tuesday's hearing, said she saw a security guard knelt on the ground with one knee “resting on (Mr Reynolds’) back”. She said she saw two guards carrying out the restraint.
When shown CCTV footage of the initial restraint taking place now ex-PC Picken began to cry and said it "looked like he (Mr Reynolds) was being restrained by the neck".
Asked by Mr Reynolds' stepfather Martin Hurst if, after watching the CCTV, she agreed that she was "totally misled" by security officers Timothy Cator-Durrant and David Foster about what happened, PC Picken said she did agree.
“From watching that, the police are only ever trained to restrain by the neck if your own life is in danger," she told the inquest.
“In 17 years of policing, I've never used that restraint.”
PC Warne said Mr Reynolds appeared to be of large build and when he leant down to tell him he was being arrested, he could smell alcohol on his breath and heard him murmuring.
He said he saw Mr Reynolds’ eyes squint briefly, which he took as an acknowledgement, before handcuffing him. The father-of-three did not resist, PC Warne added, but this was not unusual as suspects often "faked inability to assist officers" during an arrest.
Police training on restraints made PC Warne mindful, he said, of the dangers of prone (face down) position particularly on someone who was overweight – so he advised he be sat upright.
He said security staff told him Mr Reynolds had been restrained for around 10 minutes and when he was moved onto his side, he could see his chest moving, his breathing was regular and he could hear no gasping.
PC Warne said he could see no signs of positional asphyxia, which occurs when someone's position prevents them from breathing adequately.
PC Picken said she could see no signs Mr Reynolds was medically unwell.
Mr Reynolds was lifted to his feet by officers but was unable to stand unaided. PC Warne said he felt he may have been trying to make “police duties as awkward as possible” by feigning sleep.
Fellow officer Acting Police Sergeant Andrew Hodds then decided to carry Mr Reynolds out to the police van waiting to take him to custody, PC Warne added.
On route, PC Warne described sitting in the back of the vehicle close to Mr Reynolds so he could observe him. He said he was “constantly monitoring” breathing throughout the journey.
When they were travelling through Lowestoft, PC Warne said he noticed Mr Reynolds’ chin drop down to his chest and spotted a breathing issue.
He described shouting to APS Hodds to stop the vehicle and the pair immediately started first aid, bringing Mr Reynolds out of the van and placing him on tarmac.
CPR was started and continued until paramedics arrived, with PC Warne adding that pair were told they had done a “fantastic job” in starting Mr Reynolds' resuscitation so quickly.
From there, Mr Reynolds was rushed to hospital, where he died two days later.
PC Warne said he “did what I thought was correct at the time”, adding he would have acted immediately if he thought Mr Reynolds was experiencing a medical emergency.
The inquest, heard before a jury, continues.