Socialist Worker

Death in custody: Standing together in Burnley to win justice for Nadeem Khan

A recent death in police custody has united Asian, black and white people from Burnley, Lancashire, in a common fight to get some answers, writes Esme Choonara

Issue No. 2060

People taking part in the demonstration calling for justice for Dean. (Pic: Andrew Smith, Burnley Express)

People taking part in the demonstration calling for justice for Dean. (Pic: Andrew Smith, Burnley Express)

The people of Burnley are demanding answers after 28 year old Nadeem Khan – known as Dean – died in police custody on Saturday 30 June.

Dean had been arrested that morning and taken to Burnley police station. He was then taken to Burnley General Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 10.30am. The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is now investigating the death.

Dean’s friends and family are organising a campaign to highlight the case and to demand answers. Hundreds of people from across the area joined a march to Burnley police station on Saturday 7 July.

They presented the police with a series of questions about how Dean was arrested and about what had happened in the police station prior to Dean’s death (see panel).

Shiraz Khan, Dean’s cousin, told Socialist Worker, “Everyone is devastated by the death. We are still in shock. And there are so many questions we need answers to.

“For someone to die in police custody is a big thing. But there was nothing in the press about it to begin with and nothing on the news.

“If a police officer died, it would be worldwide news. That’s why we organised the march – to make sure Dean’s death couldn’t be swept under the carpet.

“This is just the beginning of the campaign. We are going to keep this going. We want justice for Dean and we also want to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Sijjeel Quadri helped organise the march. “Dean was a good friend of mine,” he told Socialist Worker. “We all grew up together. This death touched every one of us in this area.

“A lot of people came to the march at very short notice because he meant something to them. This was not just to a few families from this area, but to people right across Burnley and beyond.”


Sadly, Burnley is probably best known for the riots of 2001 and subsequent election of several councillors from the fascist BNP. But the campaign around Dean’s death shows another side to the town – a spirit of unity rather than division.

Wajib Khan, family spokesperson and a Labour councillor in Burnley, told Socialist Worker, “The peaceful protest that we held was attended by people of all backgrounds including many white and Asian people.

“These are people in Burnley who don’t always mix, or talk to each other, or get on with each other.

“Nadeem himself was from a mixed race family. People have united to say that what happened to Nadeem was unprecedented in Burnley. And people have come together to demand some answers.”

Janet Alder, whose brother Christopher died in custody in a police station in Hull in 1998, has lived in Burnley for 15 years. She joined the march for justice for Dean.

Janet told Socialist Worker, “This shouldn’t still be happening – people shouldn’t still have to fight for justice in this way.

“People used to think that Christopher was an isolated case. It was sad to see the same messages coming from the police.

“The march was very diverse, which is important in Burnley. This is not just an issue for black people, or Asian people. It is about the accountability of the police and about ordinary people uniting to get justice from the system.”

Sijjeel added, “After the riots, this was a disturbed community. Then we started to rebuild community organisation. Now there is a big question about who we can trust.”

Sijjeel vowed that the campaign to win justice for Dean would continue. “We need to see some answers about Dean’s death. It has to be investigated properly.

“Maybe the campaign will build better relations between people – maybe some good will come out of it that way.”

The questions that the family wants answers for

Acting on behalf of the family and friends of Nadeem (Dean) Khan, Councillor Wajib Khan presented a series of questions to the operations manager of Pennine police.

The questions have also been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

  • What happened at the scene of arrest?
  • Were paramedics turned away when they arrived at the scene?
  • On what grounds was Dean detained?
  • Who was the custody officer that morning?
  • Has a copy of the custody record being given to the family? If not, can they have a copy of this?
  • What was the extent of Dean’s wounding?
  • Was a police surgeon called to examine Dean? If Dean requested a doctor, was one present?
  • Did any one attend Dean’s cell? Who visited him in his cell?
  • What did you do to look after him? What measures did you take?
  • Was he given a right to free independent legal advice or to contact or notify one person of his arrest?
  • Was Dean given access to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act code of conduct?

Shiraz and Sijjeel

Shiraz and Sijjeel

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Article information

Tue 17 Jul 2007, 19:46 BST
Issue No. 2060
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