G20 protest video puts police on spot over death

9th April 2009, Comments 0 comments

A police watchdog body is already investigating the death of Ian Tomlinson, who suffered a heart attack while walking home from work during the protests on the eve of the G20 summit.

London -- British police could face a criminal probe after a video emerged showing an officer push a man violently to the ground, shortly before he died during G20 protests, a minister said Wednesday.

A police watchdog body is already investigating the death of Ian Tomlinson, 47, who suffered a heart attack while walking home from work during the protests last Wednesday, on the eve of the G20 summit.

But the amateur video, obtained by the Guardian newspaper, triggered more questions from the family, and a call from opposition politicians for a criminal investigation.

"This video clearly shows an unprovoked attack by a police officer on a passer-by. It is sickening. There must be a full-scale criminal investigation," said David Howarth, justice spokesman for the opposition Liberal Democrats.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which probes allegations involving officers, said it would study the video footage as part of its investigation into the incident.

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said she hopes the IPCC investigation is completed "as quickly as possible" -- adding that a criminal investigation could follow if merited.

"I'm glad that the IPCC themselves called for further evidence in order to be able to do that inquiry as quickly as possible. If it identifies the need for a criminal investigation then that also needs to be pursued," she said.

The video shows Tomlinson, returning from his job at a newsagent, walking with his hands in his pockets in front of a line of officers -- when one of them suddenly shoves him from behind, throwing him heavily to the ground.

A policeman also appears to hit him on the back of the legs, the Guardian said, although this is unclear from the published footage.

Tomlinson was later pronounced dead in hospital. His family has appealed for anyone with any information about how he died to come forward.

Police said at the time that they had been alerted by a passer-by that Tomlinson had collapsed and was not breathing, and claimed protesters threw bottles and other debris at them as they tried to revive him.

Tomlinson's son Paul King, 26, said the video raised many questions about his father's death. "Whether that was a cause to his death we are not to know," he said, cited by the Guardian.

"We want answers: why? Ian clearly had his arms in his pockets and back towards the police. There is no need for them to step in towards him. It clearly shows that Ian did have an altercation" with police.

A fund manager from New York shot the video shortly before Tomlinson died, the Guardian said. It quoted him as saying: "The primary reason for me coming forward is that it was clear the family were not getting any answers."

London Mayor Boris Johnson called the video "disturbing," while Scotland Yard chief Paul Stephenson vowed full cooperation with investigators.

"The images that have now been released raise obvious concerns and it is absolutely right and proper that there is a full investigation into this matter," Stephenson said in a statement.

Stephenson only took over as head of the Metropolitan Police in January from Ian Blair, ousted after a series of scandals including the shooting dead of an innocent Brazilian after suicide bombings which killed 56 people in July 2005.

A spokeswoman for the Menezes family's Justice4Jean Campaign raised doubts about the IPCC inquiry.

"We are concerned that the police appear to have misled the public about vital information regarding the circumstances of Ian's death and find it deeply worrying that Ian's death is not being independently investigated," she said.

Michael Thurston/AFP/Expatica

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