The mum of a Black man who died after being restrained by police in Lewisham said he was afraid of police after being “tasered and scarred” by them before, an inquest heard. 

Kevin Clarke, 35, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, was restrained by police on March 9, 2018, before he “became unwell” and was sent to Lewisham Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.  

The inquest into his death at Southwark Coroners Court, which opened on Monday (September 7), will investigate whether the actions of police contributed to or caused his death.   

At the time of his death, he had been staying at the Jigsaw Project, assisted living in Catford, for two years.  

He had his first mental health episode in 2002, which led to him being sectioned aged 17, something that would continue until his death. 

The inquest heard that Kevin frequently suffered mental health crises – about every six months – and would attend a psychiatric hospital for treatment.  

It heard Kevin was dependent on cannabis and had a history of violent episodes because of his illness, but when he complied with taking his medication and was doing well, he was “sociable” and “stable”.  

The inquest heard that on the day he died Kevin was behaving “unusually” outside Jigsaw. 

Health care workers said he seemed “lost and confused”, staying outside in the cold in the same position for hours. 

The inquest heard that after his care team became concerned he was “becoming unwell”, they called police and asked that he be sectioned. 

Police arrived around an hour later, as they said “it wasn’t an emergency … as he had not threatened anyone”. After speaking with Kevin they decided not to detain him as he was “not high enough risk”.  

They [police] came into the office and told us they could not detain Kevin under Section 136 as he was not assessed as a high enough risk

The coroner read out a statement from a forensic mental community support worker who worked with Kevin at Jigsaw and was on shift the day he died.  

She said: “I wanted them to section Kevin and I believe this was relayed to police over the phone and on arrival. 

“The police responded to us saying they would first need to assess Kevin before they could section him. 

“The police then went and spoke to Kevin but this was all out of sight, they were gone for maybe 15 or 20 minutes. Then I saw Kevin run up the road on the pavement opposite the building and he turned right up the road. 

“I don’t know why he was running – this was the last time I saw Kevin. 

“They [police] came into the office and told us they could not detain Kevin under Section 136 as he was not assessed as a high enough risk.”

The worker said she was “frustrated” with their response “as [she] was concerned for Kevin’s welfare and everyone else’s”. 

“We were left to deal with this situation again, the other staff were also frustrated and disappointed as the police description of Kevin was different to what we had seen. This was not the first time the police had said they can’t section somebody,” she said.  

She said about between an hour and an hour and a half later she received a call from the police asking for next of kin details with “no explanation” as to what happened. 

His mother Wendy Clarke, who gave evidence on Tuesday, said she received a phone call from her son the day he died, during which he said he was coming to her house, but he cut the phone off “abruptly”.  

Ms Clarke told the inquest that she tried to get through to him again but he didn’t answer.  

Just before 3pm, a police officer answered Kevin’s phone who told Ms Clarke that they “weren’t going to taser him, they weren’t allowed to do that anymore”. 

She told the inquest that Kevin was fearful of police because they had tasered him in the past, from which he still had scarring. 

Ms Clarke asked if Kevin was being brought to hospital, but the officer said he wasn’t and then asked what medication her son was on.  

At 3.11pm she called the phone again and a different police officer answered.  

Senior coroner Andrew Harris, going through Ms Clarke’s statement, said: “And the tone of the officer made you think they were arresting him. 

“The officer said that Kevin was agitated, he [the officer] spoke in a harsh tone and didn’t explain why. 

“You asked if they were arresting him and you didn’t get an answer.” 

The next she heard from the police was when they arrived at her door nearly two hours later to tell her that her son had died.  

And after hours of not seeing him I had to watch his lifeless body from behind a glass door, so I never even got to touch my son to hold him or kiss him to say goodbye to him forever

Ms Clarke said despite her son suffering mental health episodes “he would always find a way to get back to his normal state”.  

She said the family would all come together to help him.  

“Everyone had so much love and respect for my son,” she said.  
She said the latest episode was “very similar” to previous ones.  

“So when two officers turned up at my door telling me my son had died, even though I had just spoke with my son […] It all came as a massive shock and completely caused me to break down.  

“I had no idea this could have happened, I was not even able to see my son afterward as my family and I were told we had to wait before we could see him.  

“And after hours of not seeing him I had to watch his lifeless body from behind a glass door, so I never even got to touch my son to hold him or kiss him to say goodbye to him forever,” she said, becoming very upset.  

“My son remains in so many hearts as an absolute legend,” she said.  
Earlier she told the inquest that Kevin was sociable, loved cooking, and used to play football for his local club.  

“He was very funny and loved to make others laugh. We saw him as a friendly, gentle giant,” she said. 

The inquest continues.