The loved ones of Sheku Bayoh should have been given more detail in the first moment they heard of his death, a police officer who delivered the news to them has said.
Detective Constable Wayne Parker was giving evidence at an inquiry into the death of Bayoh, 31, who died after being restrained on the ground by six officers in Kirkcaldy, Fife, in May 2015.
The evidence so far has said the first “death message” – the news of someone’s death given by police – delivered to the family failed to mention that Bayoh had been in contact with police when he died.
This detail was revealed in the second death message, the inquiry heard on Wednesday.
Earlier, a police statement said Dc Parker was delegated to tell Bayoh’s partner, Collette Bell, the first news of her partner’s death with words to the effect that “a black male had been found dead”.
Angela Grahame KC, lead counsel to the inquiry, asked Dc Parker to give his opinion on whether the family should have been told straight away that Bayoh had been in contact with police when he died.
He replied: “This is my personal opinion, probably not a police opinion, but it probably would have benefitted the family if I am being honest.”
Dc Parker said the giving of this detail would “have at least been upfront and honest and they (the family) wouldn’t have been provided with information from social media or given another death message”.
He added: “We tried to explain as much as we could.
“We were restrained under, ‘you will provide this and nothing more and nothing less’.
“(We) just kept saying, ‘we can only give you this because it’s an ongoing (investigation).’
“I would love to have given them more information, to put their mind to rest a little bit, it wouldn’t give them any consolation, but it would have answered a few questions as to what’s happened that day because we left them with nothing very much, to be honest.”
Earlier, the inquiry heard from Dc Andrew Mitchell, who also assisted in giving news to the family of Bayoh’s death.
Ms Grahame asked him to explain why he did not tell Ms Bell that Bayoh had died after having come into contact with the police.
Dc Mitchell replied: “It was a direction from our supervisors that we weren’t to mention anything to do with the police contact until it was properly investigated.”
When asked what the reason was for retaining that information, Dc Mitchell added: “It was still being investigated at that point.
“Obviously, we didn’t really know the full ins and outs so it was obviously for when we did understand to then give a clear picture later on.”
Ms Grahame asked: “What’s wrong with telling families that is the actual truth of the matter?”
Dc Mitchell replied: “Yes, to be honest, I don’t know. I really don’t know.”
Ms Grahame asked what could be the downside of “hiding something from families about the fact there was police contact” to which the witness replied: “You then lose their trust.”
He went on to tell the inquiry the impact of losing trust with families is “massive because the rapport then goes out the window”.
The inquiry is trying to establish whether race played a part in Bayoh’s death.
Earlier, Dc Mitchell was asked about claims that Ms Bell was asked in a police interview if Bayoh prayed, drank, ate bacon, if his family had issues with her being white, issues with her not being Muslim, and if Bayoh was a violent person.
Dc Mitchell said there may have been questions about Bayoh’s drinking and if he was violent, but insisted: “With regards to religious questions, I don’t remember any of that being asked. And with regards to him praying and eating bacon, no relevance whatsoever, so I don’t see why that would have been asked.”
Bayoh’s sister, Kadi Johnson, has previously told the inquiry she believes her brother was handled the way he was because he was black.
She also said that she and her family began to feel “suspicious” after being given different versions of how her brother died.
The inquiry, before Lord Bracadale at Capital House, Edinburgh, continues on Thursday.