A POLICE officer has told an inquest about the difficulties in restraining a man who was suffering from mental health difficulties when he rushed out of his jail cell.

The inquest into the death of former teacher Meirion James continued in County Hall, Haverfordwest, today (January 15), and is expected to last until January 25.

Mr James died on January 31, 2015, aged 53, following restraint at Haverfordwest Police Station, where he had been taken after calling the police to say he had assaulted his mother.

On Tuesday, January 15, the inquest heard from police custody sergeant Mark Murray, whose shift began after Mr James was arrested and brought to Haverfordwest police station.

Sgt Murray told the inquest his recollection of events on the day of Mr James’ arrest, and described how he became involved in an effort to restrain the prisoner.

He described how he had been sitting at the custody desk in the station at around 10.30am when he heard shouting coming from the cells.

“I head a scream extending from the cells and shouting for assistance,” he said. “Knowing the immediacy I ended up getting into a full sprint to get down to the block.”

Sgt Murray found two of his colleagues trying to restrain Mr James following an episode where the prisoner rushed out of his cell door as it was opened.


Mr James pictured on police CCTV rushing at officers outside his cell. PICTURE: Released by the coroner.

The sergeant described how the officers were trying to restrain Mr James legs as he lay down in the corridor outside the cells.

CCTV footage shown to Sgt Murray showed him arriving to assist his colleagues alongside another officer, with six officers trying to restrain Mr James at one point.

Sgt Murray described Mr James’ head as ‘hot to the touch’ when he pushed against it to restrain the prisoner against the floor.

Mr James twisted on to his side during the struggle and Sgt Murray used his foot to restrain one of his arms, while trying to use his leg as a barrier as Mr James was trying to bite him.

The CCTV footage shown during the inquest showed one police officer opening Mr James’ cell door, with the intention of taking him back inside.

CCTV footage supplied by the coroner.

The sergeant used what were described as distraction blows to Mr James’ temples and later to his side to try and bring him into an easier position to restrain.

The blows, which Sgt Murray said stung his hands, had no effect on Mr James.

Pava Spray gas was also used to try to restrain Mr James, and Sgt Murray said he began to feel the effects of the substance during the restraint effort.

In the CCTV footage a second door was opened on the other side of the corridor to disperse the gas, but this obscured the camera’s view.

As the struggle continued, Sgt Murray noted one of Mr James’ hands, which had been handcuffed, was becoming paler and there were small spots of blood around his face.

Sgt Murray assumed this blood had come from a glasses lense Mr James had accidentally broken earlier, but a larger amount of darker blood then appeared to drip from his mouth.

“At this point we are not trying to trying to restrain someone but we are trying to help him,” said Sgt Murray.

“At that point when we discovered the blood his resistance was slowing.”

Paramedics were called and arrived to help Mr James.

Sgt Murray described how he felt deeply upset by what had happened and how he was asked to stay at the station until midnight that night while an investigation begun.


CCTV showing Mr James struggling with police officers outside his cell. PICTURE: Released by the coroner.

The inquest also heard from Dr June Picton, who had been called to Haverfordwest police station at approximately 7.20am the same morning to assess Mr James.

She said she had been unaware of Mr James’ prior difficulties with bipolar disorder, or that he had told the arresting officer he thought “something satanic” was happening to him.

She said during her interview with Mr James she had noticed he had urinated in his own trousers, but this was not entirely out of the ordinary with other prisoners she had met.

Dr Picton described Mr James as seeming well-balanced and talkative during her interview, and recommended police reduce the observation level for him from level four to level 1one, meaning he would be checked once every hour.

Between 8am and 10.20am Mr James was reported to have started pulling out his own hair, with a barrister for his family suggesting that this would have been observed had level four remained in place.

Dr Picton said she recommended Mr James be assigned an appropriate adult who could help to safeguard his welfare while in police custody, but this advice had not been taken up by the police.

The inquest continues.