Family of London man who died after arrest demand answers
The family of a man who died following his arrest in London last week have demanded answers after the police watchdog said a postmortem contradicted their claim that he suffered a series of severe injuries.
Edir Frederico Da Costa, commonly known as Edson, died in hospital on Wednesday, six days after his arrest in east London by Metropolitan police officers.
Scotland Yard said on the night of the arrest that the 25-year-old had been taken unwell after being detained and that they believed he had “swallowed a large quantity of drugs”. It emerged later that officers had used force and CS spray during the arrest.
Relatives said Da Costa’s doctor had told them before he died that he had sustained a broken neck, brain damage as a result of head injuries, a broken collarbone and loss of his eyesight due to the quantity of CS spray used on him.
“This is what the doctors told us,” said his cousin, Natalia Leles. “We were told by the doctor – my uncle was told by the doctor – plenty of us witnessed him say this: that his collarbone was broken, that he suffered fractures on his head, which caused him to seizure.”
Although the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is running an independent investigation, she said the family was concerned that it was “working with” the police.
The watchdog can investigate cases independently of the force in question, can decide to manage or supervise the force’s investigation, or it can return the case for local investigation.
Leles also said she did not believe that the drugs her cousin swallowed contributed to his death.
“The drugs that they said he swallowed – he didn’t swallow a large amount, he swallowed a very small amount, which the doctors were actually able to remove intact, so [the bag] didn’t burst, so it couldn’t have caused his death. It couldn’t have caused the foam to come out of his mouth.”
She was unable to say what the substance was.
The family’s lawyer, Sarah Kellas, said the man’s relatives were “very concerned about the circumstances in which he died”.
The IPCC said on Friday: “The preliminary postmortem found that Mr Da Costa did not suffer a broken neck or any other spinal injury during his interaction with the police. It found he did not suffer a broken collarbone or bleeding to the brain.
“Rigorous investigations into the cause of Mr Da Costa’s death are continuing, including into the use of force.”
The watchdog said it was releasing those details because it was concerned about the “rapid spread of false and potentially inflammatory information” online about Da Costa’s condition.
Da Costa’s ex-partner, Jucelma Da Silva, said she had received conflicting reports about the extent of his injuries from doctors and wanted to allow the investigation to proceed so she could have some clarity. “At the moment, the best thing we can do is to wait,” she said.
The commander of the Met’s Newham borough, Ch Supt Ian Larnder, said: “I know that Edir’s family, friends and the wider community want answers, but it is important that the investigation is allowed to take place to establish the full facts of what happened before any conclusions are made.”
He added that “all police officers are fully aware that they will be asked to account for their actions – officers are not exempt from the law, and we would not wish to be”.