‘The system in place is responsible for the deaths of our loved ones’ – Janet Alder tells Trafalgar Square rally

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Angry relatives and friends of those who have died in custody marching to Parliament Square on Saturday – more pictures in photo gallery
Angry relatives and friends of those who have died in custody marching to Parliament Square on Saturday – more pictures in photo gallery

OVER 300 United Families and Friends campaigners marched from Trafalgar Square to Downing Street to demand justice for their loved ones, who have died at the hands of the state.

Flowers were laid at the gates of Downing Street to commemorate loved ones.

Marchers carried a huge banner carrying the names of the 2,533 people who have died in custody since 1969.

The crowd chanted: ‘Who are the murderers? Police are the murderers!’, ‘Who covers them up? The IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Commission)!’, ‘Who lets them go? The CPS (Crown Prosecution Service)!’

Addressing a rally in Trafalgar Square, Janet Alder, sister of Christopher Alder, who died in custody at Hull police station on April 1st 1998 said: ‘The system in place is responsible for the deaths of our loved ones.

‘It is sad to see so many people here today, but it is good because it shows we will not go away and that we will fight for justice.’

The mother of Jean Charles de Menezes, Maria Menezes, told News Line: ‘We are here today because it is important to get justice.

‘So many lives have been lost and they keep doing the same thing. This must stop.’

Wayne Rigg, brother of Sean Rigg, who died after being arrested in August, said: ‘We are here to join the families who have been here before to get justice and answers to why their loved ones have died.

‘There is an investigation being conducted at this moment by the IPCC and we would like them to conduct as robust an investigation as possible on the police officers who arrested Sean on August 21, 2008, at 7.14pm. By 8.16pm we believe he was dead. A short period of time.

‘He was a healthy 40-year-old man and there is no reasonable cause as to why he should collapse and die after coming into contact with the police.’

Sister Samantha Rigg said: ‘We have already experienced lies and cover-up.’

Carla Thompson, sister of Jason Thompson, who died whilst on remand on November 1, 2004, said: ‘We want people to realise how many deaths there are in police custody.’

Jason’s mother Dot Thomas said: ‘My son was on remand after being arrested for taking bacon, which he didn’t do.

‘He was sprayed with CS gas in the police car, after he kicked out. He was charged with criminal damage.

‘He was taken off suicide watch two days after six attempts at hanging himself and was dead 10 days later.

‘Someone has to take responsibility. The outcome of his inquest was accidental death, which is appalling!

‘Prison officers said that his attempts to hang himself were “manipulative behaviour’’ – it is not for them to judge.’

Friends and family of Habib Ullah (Paps) were on the march.

Javid Akhtar, a friend, explained: ‘Paps was arrested by five policemen and he died there in the street.

‘There have been no answers as to how he died and nothing has been done.’

Yvonne Bailey, mother of Joseph Scholes, who died at Stoke Heath detention centre, has been demanding a public inquiry into his death.

‘We want the British government to abolish prison custody for all children and we are taking the matter to the European Court of Human Rights.’

Marchers paid tribute to Pauline Campbell, who died tragically this year, the mother of teenager Sarah Campbell, who died in prison custody.

Pauline, who had tirelessly campaigned over deaths in women’s prisons, collapsed and died at the grave of her daughter.

Sarah Campbell was in the custody of Styal prison in Cheshire.

Pauline led a demonstration outside every women’s prison where there had been a death in custody, in spite of being arrested on many occasions.

Her friend Joan Meredith told News Line: ‘I stood outside the church at Pauline’s funeral with a banner for her, as she stood outside so many prisons with her banners. So I put, “Home Office responsible for Pauline’s death’’.

‘I will continue to protest so long as there is breath in my body as I am so furious as to what is happening, especially to young children.’

Lynda Kealey, whose son died on September 12 at Wormwood Scrubs prison, was determined to find out what had happened.

‘There were unexplained injuries on his body, yet the cell he was in had a CCTV camera, which was “not working’’. That is all we know and we want answers.’

Pauline Day, mother of Philip Day, has been campaigning since her son’s death on October 2, 2002.

She told News Line: ‘Paul was in Frankland Prison for 51 days. He was a victim of bullying after 20 minutes by prison officers and inmates.

‘It was said he hung himself, yet he was on suicide watch. The inquest into his death took five and a half weeks.

‘A police investigation into his death started in January and we are expecting a decision by the end of the year and we will take action from there.’

Addressing the rally before the march, Pat Coker, mother of Paul Coker, said: ‘We are not only here to remember our loved ones, but to speak for them.

‘We are here to speak for them and to stay strong.

‘The fight goes on. The fight goes on.

‘We are fighting for justice against a system which is holding us down.’

Jacqueline Stretton-Chang, from West Bromwich, joined the march determined to get the truth of her brother Richard’s death.

Richard was found dead on the ground floor at Abbey National headquarters, Euston, after a fall of 80 feet, allegedly from the fifth floor, after an interrogation by Kroll Associates (corporate detectives) on July 13, 2004.

Jacqueline said: ‘We believe Richard’s death was covered up.

‘The family have been through a nightmare.

‘The whole legal process has failed all the families on today’s march. I am shocked so many people are here.’

Another marcher, Raymond Daniel, with family members, was angry at the death of his brother Junior Daniel.

‘He was in a detention centre and had symptoms of being ill, but by the time an ambulance was called due to the delay he did not survive.

‘The police have too many powers and have no one to account to for their actions.’

Travelling from Hartlepool to join the demonstration, Lynn Pounder, sister of William Hunter, who took his life in Durham prison on May 24, 2004, said: ‘As a family we feel strongly that Billy was enormously let down by the police, the courts and the prison service. They have shown callous regard for human life.’

Samantha Patterson, sister of Jason McPherson, said: ‘It breaks my heart to see so many people here today without children, fathers, loved ones.

‘Jason had only gone to the shop to get some custard for his mother, an invalid.

‘He was stopped and searched by the police who found nothing, but he was taken to the police station.

‘Jason was a chronic asthmatic who needed an inhaler and he was jumped on by police in the police station.

‘He had an asthma attack from which he never recovered.

‘This government screams about human rights in every other country. Where are the human rights here?’