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Courtroom Shocked by video of death

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Issue 1706

Christopher Alder inquest

Courtroom Shocked by video of death

PEOPLE WERE moved to tears in a Hull courtroom last week. They had watched video evidence at the inquest into the death of black ex-soldier Christopher Alder. The film shows Christopher dying on the floor of Hull’s Queen’s Gardens police station on 1 April 1998.

Hours earlier he had been arrested by Hull police. He was unconscious by the time he got to the police station. The inquest watched a CCTV video that showed two police officers dragging Christopher along the ground into the custody suite. The video shows Christopher dumped on the ground. An officer bends over him, not to see to Christopher’s medical needs but to empty his pockets. Police then turn their backs on Christopher.

You can see Christopher choking in the background, but the officers ignore him. Instead they joke about what it is they are going to charge him under. Their comments show just how the police see black people in a stereotyped way. “[He’s been] abusive and obnoxious”, says one officer. “We’ve given him lots of chances,” says another. One points at Christopher and says, “This is acting now.” Another says, “What do we do with him?”

The CCTV camera catches one officer as he cracks up over a joke, laughing as Christopher lies dying behind him. It is 12 minutes before any officer tends to Christopher. The police officers are so casual it is shocking. When they do eventually go to tend to Christopher the police dither. Christopher only gets any medical attention when the ambulance crew arrive. You hear one police officer whistling casually as the ambulance crew pump Christopher’s chest.

As soon as he is pronounced dead the police try to justify their behaviour. “We didn’t have the opportunity to do anything for him,” says one. “We couldn’t believe what happened, it was that quick,” says another. Yet the police had dumped Christopher on the floor like so much meat and left him dying.

When he is finally declared dead one police officer quips to a paramedic, “I’ll be seeing you at the coroner’s court then.” People left the court last Friday with tears streaming from their eyes. The inquest continues.

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