Sheku Bayoh officers advised not to discuss incident afterwards, inquiry told

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A senior investigating officer told police who arrested Sheku Bayoh not to discuss his death with each other but to relax and watch TV, he told an inquiry.

Chief Inspector Colin Robson, 43, was on shift on May 3, 2015 when Mr Bayoh was detained in Kirkcaldy, Fife, and shortly afterwards fell unconsciousness before being pronounced dead in hospital.

Officers involved in the arrest were taken back to Kirkcaldy Police Office and Mr Robson, who was a detective inspector on the day, told the inquiry into Mr Bayoh’s death that he advised them not to talk about the incident.

Asked by inquiry senior counsel Angela Grahame KC if he told them not to confer, he said that while he did not use that word, he said effectively the same.

He told the inquiry on Thursday: “I said to them basically: ‘Look, because we need to get an account from you, in what fashion because of the numbers and logistics involved, please don’t talk about it.’”

Mr Robson asked them to relax and watch television, he added.

Sheku Bayoh death
Sheku Bayoh with his two children (handout/PA)

“The less they talk about, it means they maintain their own thoughts around about and recollection of the events,” he said.

The inquiry heard Detective Superintendent Pat Campbell had asked for the officers to be separated, but this was not done.

Mr Robson said: “It didn’t sound like an order, and if it was then I went against it, I think it was like ‘Pirc (the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner) are looking for them to be separated’.

“He (Mr Campbell) became the conduit between me on the ground and Pirc, who were going to be the organisation to lead the investigation.”

Mr Robson told the inquiry of the difficulties around resources and physical space to separate them, and also of the need to protect the welfare of the officers.

“By bringing them back and putting them in one place we had more control, as opposed to that splintered, fragmented approach of isolating them, being on their own.

“For every witness you would then need another officer to sit with, if not two, it came back to after the how would be the why,” Mr Robson told the inquiry.

Sheku Bayoh death
Collette Bell, left, the partner of Sheku Bayoh, and his sister Kadi Johnson (Danny Lawson/PA)

Other officers and representatives had been in the canteen with the officers involved.

When asked if placing the independent person in the room “slipped through the net” by Ms Grahame, he replied “potentially”.

Mr Robson added: “It was done with the best of intentions to have that, but also by having the (Police) Federation rep and the supervisor there it did offer that degree of integrity.

“If they chose, after what I’d asked, to discuss (the incident), the Federation rep would be aware…

“But again, it was putting that moral obligation on them, that professionalism to just, look, don’t discuss it.”

The inquiry, before Lord Bracadale, is investigating the circumstances of the father-of-two’s death and whether race was a factor.

It has previously heard that officers involved in the incident had discussed it in the canteen, where they were left for hours.

The inquiry has also heard that Mr Bayoh’s partner, Collette Bell, was not told about the initial police contact when she was informed of his death.

Asked if there was an attempt to hide the interaction with the officers, Mr Robson told the inquiry on Thursday: “Absolutely not, and why would it be when it was so public facing? If it was an attempt, it would soon very quickly be found out.”

He said that looking back on the incident, he now “would have provided the same update I had to senior management in effect”, and added he would potentially tailor it to suit a member of the public.

The inquiry continues.

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