I'm no racist, says officer in custody death probe

Alexandra Wood One of the police officers criticised by the Independent Police Complaints Commission over the death in custody of a black former paratrooper has denied being a racist.

John Dunn, who was the custody sergeant when Christopher Alder died on the floor of the custody suite at Queen's Gardens police station, in Hull, eight years ago, was found guilty of the "most serious neglect of duty" with three others in an excoriating report.

The IPPC also found the men – Sgt Dunn, PCs Matthew Barr, Neil Blakey and Nigel Dawson – guilty of "unwitting racism".

A fifth officer, Acting Sgt Mark Ellerington, was also said to be involved but to a "lesser extent".

CCTV footage caught Mr Alder's last moments as he choked to death on the floor. Later broadcast on television in 2004 it sparked widespread revulsion.

The first of any of the officers to speak publically, Mr Dunn denied accusations of racism – and rejected allegations he made monkey noises when a drunk white woman was causing trouble and later when Mr Alder was lying dead on the floor.

The 44-year-old said: "I would not have treated a white person any differently. It's a ridiculous allegation. Race played no part in this."

Mr Dunn claimed the alleged "monkey noises" he made when the woman was trying to escape was "a stupid impression of someone running".

He said noises made after Mr Alder's death were laughter, a release of tension, after PC Barr joked about the yellow footwear they might be given if their clothes were seized for a forensic investigation. He was, he said, in an emotionally charged state having physically tried to save Mr Alder's life. While "very, very saddened" Mr Alder died in police custody, it was "very unfair the finger should be pointed at five individuals when there was a lot more to the story".

He also offered his condolences to the Alder family.

IPCC chairman Nick Hardwick said in his report the officers who had watched Mr Alder die had "disgraced" the police service.

He also criticised the refusal of the men to co-operate with the review.

But Mr Dunn, who was given early retirement with four of the five officers in December 2004 on the grounds of ill-health, said he didn't trust the IPPC and felt he had been "hounded by the system, to get a conviction to appease certain people".

He said: "It felt like this was another part of the witch hunt."

All five have denied any wrongdoing and said they were "deeply disappointed" by the IPCC report.

Mr Alder, of Dagger Lane, Hull, suffered a head injury during a scuffle outside a hotel and was taken to Hull Royal Infirmary for treatment. He was subsequently arrested at the hospital by police for an alleged breach of the peace and, despite no diagnosis of his head injuries being made, was discharged and taken to Queen's Gardens police station.

Later, handcuffed, face down on the floor and with his trousers around his ankles, he choked to death on his own blood and vomit while the officers did nothing to help him.

All five officers were cleared of manslaughter at Teesside Crown Court in June 2002, on the orders of the judge.