Police are to investigate man's death

A POLICE investigation has been launched into the conduct of a West Yorkshire police officer following the death of a man at his Kinsley home, an inquest in Wakefield heard.

John Richard Whitehead, 69, of Tombridge Crescent, Kinsley, who had a history of heart problems and had advanced heart disease, died shortly after what was described as ‘an altercation’ with police Sgt Iain McKelvey in October 2005.

PC Angela Stratton had gone to Mr Whitehead’s home to speak to him and his grandson Sam, before arresting Sam for allegedly shooting a 10-year-old neighbour in the eye with a plastic BB gun he claimed he had found.

Sgt McKelvey had come to assist in the arrest and had a heated argument with Mr Whitehead as he struggled to take Sam out of the house, with Mr Whitehead clinging to his 14-year-old grandson’s arm.

After the argument, in which Mr Whitehead had sworn at the officer, Sgt McKelvey had then escorted the boy into a police van outside.

Mr Whitehead’s wife Vera had gone into the house to telephone the family solicitor, Robert Howard, but when she became too upset to speak her husband had taken the telephone from her.

As Mr Whitehead spoke to Mr Howard he suddenly said he was blacking out. He then slumped forward and his wife said she suspected he had died.

An ambulance arrived and took him to Pontefract General Infirmary’s accident and emergency unit. He was pronounced dead at 5.45pm.

The family described the police sergeant who had assisted in the arrest as very bombastic and added that had he not been involved they felt Mr Whitehead would still be alive today.

Insp Shelagh Brennand said she was investigating the complaint against the officer.

She added that it was mandatory to refer this to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. The investigation is ongoing.

Coroner David Hinchliff said Mr Whitehead’s heart was in a poor state and that any excitement or stress could have pushed him too far and put too much strain on his heart. He added that what happened with his grandson was one of those unfortunate incidents.

He said he was satisfied there was a connection between what had happened and Mr Whitehead’s death.

Mr Hinchliff recorded a verdict of death by natural causes and accepted consultant histo-pathologist Dr Claire McDonald’s findings that Mr Whitehead’s heart was in such a poor state that any incident or trauma of any kind could have caused his heart to fail.