The death of Robert Ward on October 28 was the third time in less than six months that someone has died in the days after being detained at West Yorkshire Police’s state-of-the-art Elland Road district base, which opened in April.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission announced yesterday that it is looking into the events between Mr Ward, 26, being arrested on October 7 and his death in hospital.
An IPCC spokesman said he was taken to Elland Road but while in custody “swallowed unknown substances on three separate occasions”.
He said: “He was twice taken to a hospital in Leeds, where he was examined and received medical attention before being returned to Elland Road police station.
“Mr Ward, 26, was subsequently bailed by the court on 9 October. He was found unconscious and unresponsive on the morning of 10 October. An ambulance was called and he was taken to hospital, where he remained until he died on 28 Oct 2014.
“The IPCC’s independent investigation will examine how Mr Ward was able to retain any substances while in custody, how he managed to take them, whether he was sufficiently supervised and if the necessary risk assessments were conducted.”
The IPCC is also looking into two other deaths where the person involved had been detained at Elland Road prior to their death.
Ethaniel Butler, 22, an electrical engineer from the LS13 area of Leeds, was arrested on June 28 and detained at Elland Road before being released on bail.
He was admitted to Leeds General Infirmary on June 29 suffering chest pains, before having his right colon removed the following day. He was transferred to St James’s Hospital on July 1 but his condition deteriorated and he died on July 5.
In a separate incident, Adam Rice, 46, was taken to custody at Elland Road on May 11. He was found unresponsive when checked in his cell at 7am the following day.
Despite attempts to resuscitate him, he was confirmed dead around 45 minutes later. Three West Yorkshire Police officers are now facing a misconduct investigation over the death.
In the four financial years from 2010/11 to 2013/14, West Yorkshire Police have recorded no deaths ‘in or following custody’, though there have been five ‘apparent suicides following custody’.
An IPCC spokesman said: “The IPCC are aware of two other recent deaths in custody at Elland Road Police station. At the end of this investigation we will be looking at whether there are any common themes across the deaths and learning recommendations for West Yorkshire Police.”
Chief Superintendent Paul Money, Leeds District Commander, said: “Any death following police contact or in police custody is regrettable, and all such cases are referred to the IPCC so that they can conduct independent investigations and report their findings publicly.
“We are, of course, co-operating fully with their current investigations into deaths linked to custody at Leeds District Headquarters and will await the outcome of those investigations.”
Mark Burns-Williamson, Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire, said: “Of course, we need to await the outcome of the IPCC investigations into these matters.
“But in the meantime I will be liaising closely with the Temporary Chief Constable and will comment further when it is appropriate to do so. My thoughts are with the families of those affected at this time.”