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From suggestion of manslaughter to chief constable's commendation


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Four officers question how the IOPC could have got it 'so catastrophically wrong'.
(L-R) PC Matt Garfitt, PC Jamie Williams and PC Steven Gorman

(L-R) PC Matt Garfitt, PC Jamie Williams and PC Steven Gorman

Almost two years ago a man choked to death after swallowing a package of drugs during an arrest attempt.

The death, filmed and uploaded to social media by Bedford residents, shocked the community and turned the lives of the four police officers involved upside down. One is still struggling with diagnosed PTSD and stress related symptoms.

Documents seen by Police Oracle show the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) “reviewed” evidence for gross negligence manslaughter and unlawful act manslaughter at least twice during its 18-month investigation into the arrest and death of 48-year-old Bedford man Karl Brunner on May 11, 2016.

Now Bedfordshire PCs Jamie Williams, Steven Gorman, Matt Garfitt and Mark Griffiths are to receive a chief constable’s commendation to recognise their professional conduct during the same incident.

The Karl Brunner inquest

In January, just a few months after the officers learned criminal charges had been dropped and misconduct proceedings had ceased, an inquest into the death of Mr Brunner held at Ampthill Coroner’s Court returned a verdict of accidental death.

The court heard how Mr Brunner, known to his friends as “Yankee”, was a known “swallower”, and officers from the central tasking team, planned to use the element of surprise in their arrest strategy and mitigate the risk of him swallowing drugs.

But the strategy was foiled by a pedestrian who warned Mr Brunner and his friend “Finchly”, shouting “run”.

As the officers struggled with Mr Brunner, he forced a golf-ball sized package of drugs into his mouth, which lodged just out of sight in his trachea.

Jurors were told Mr Brunner was a vulnerable man at the bottom of the chain who was exploited by calculating drug lords and may have faced debt bondage or enslavement to his boss if he lost the drugs.

PC Williams told Police Oracle he was on good terms Karl and had known him since he’d moved to Bedford five years ago.

“We used to have a little bit of banter with him. He would be so polite.

“My personal view on this is that it was a tragic incident.”


A document sent to Bedfordshire Police Federation on December 5, verified as legitimate by the IOPC, entitled “Brunner criminal offences decisions review” lists five offences; misconduct in public office, Section 7 Health and Safety, ABH, gross negligence manslaughter and unlawful act manslaughter, each with a separate “decision” and “rationale”.

The document states the IOPC decided to “review this offence further (both manslaughter listings) further to the receipt of the post mortem report in conjunction with all of the evidence obtained”.

Detailed analysis of why manslaughter offences would not apply to the officers are laid out below the decision.

It refers to the post mortem report, CCTV footage and witness evidence and says there are “no grounds to reasonably suspect that the actions or inactions of the officers significantly contributed to the death of Mr Brunner…there are no grounds to suspect a breach of duty of care".

“So when it did come out and all the charges were dropped it just proved although they served some papers in the background they were looking at us for manslaughter. And that’s when it hit home,” PC Williams said.

“That card was not taken off the table for 15 months of the investigation. Everyone says you’ll be alright but psychologically with that hovering over you it was horrendous,” PC Gorman added.

“As an investigator if you’re not under arrest for an offence we wouldn’t be writing the rationale. They served us papers on ABH. So that would be my starting point but the fact is they’ve started right at the top.”

Coroner Martin Oldham, who conducted the inquest, wrote to Bedfordshire Police Chief Constable Jon Boutcher to praise the officers for taking “action of the highest possible standard” in their attempt to save Mr Brunner’s life.


Bedfordshire Police Federation Chairman Jim Mallen said even one of the jurors called him to say how “impressed he was by the evidence”.

“It just goes to show the jury listened attentively to the evidence and formed an opinion that these four are absolutely telling the truth without a shadow of a doubt.

“How can the IOPC get it catastrophically wrong time after time?

“The toll on police officers is something that people disregard but they’re human beings.”

Are you sure you’re allowed to ask me that?

All four PCs say they were “appalled” by the calibre of IOPC inspectors assigned to their case.

But there’s one particular interview question which left them infuriated.

During the course of the Karl Brunner investigation, a second investigation was opened into a case of mistaken identity involving six out of the eight (PC Garfitt was not involved) central tasking team officers.

About 15 months prior to Karl’s death they were sent to arrest an armed robbery suspect, known to be violent and ruthless.

The arrest was thought to be successful - until it emerged the team which supplied the CTT with instructions had identified the wrong man.

The officers say the victim of mistaken identity made no reference to the incident being racially motivated in his statement and did not have any injuries.

PC Gorman said: “In the questioning the person asks, from my understanding, there were three white men in one van at one end of the road and three white man in another van and you’re jumping on a small black male, what reasons could there be for this other than this is racially motivated?

“I’ve been served no papers for anything to do with racism or anything like that and the person certainly hasn’t complained about it and it’s like what gives you the right to ask me questions about this when you haven’t even told me I’m being investigated for it?

“And then that’s when Jim steps up and basically says you can’t ask questions like this.

“It just made me really angry, disappointed, p*ssed off.”

For PC Williams, being questioned about racial prejudice is the part that “still sits raw with me to this very day”.

“He could have been green. He could have been red. He could have been blue. We’ve acted on the information that’s been given to us. We’ve treated him to the threat level displayed to us and that is purely the reason he was detained that day, not because we were out looking for a black fella.”

Mr Mallen added: “The reality is there wasn’t a shred of evidence to support what it (the IPCC at the time) was suggesting. It formed the race issue itself as an organisation and it says more about it then it will about the police service I think.” 

All the officers were cleared of the excessive use of force allegations.

They say the entire investigation was marked by delay and confusion, with the lead investigator changing twice.

PC Gorman said he was shocked when investigators he spoke to told him their previous job was in unrelated fields such as IT or shelf-stacking at a supermarket. 

“It’s almost like they’ve got a set of questions to follow. In my example a pre-prepared statement - it took them about ten minutes to read out, put it to one side then just go through the crib sheet of questions,” PC Williams said.

“Any investigator worth his salt would know you stop the interview there, go and read it, [the statement] cross check it against what they want to ask you.

“It doesn’t fill you with much confidence. If we’re being investigated, let’s do it properly, investigate me properly, let’s get to the bottom of it,” he added.

“They came in [after Mr Brunner died] and demanded certain things from us, like our clothes. It was good to have Jim there because he was able to ask their rationale behind certain things, taking things off of us which they couldn’t give us the answers for. All they could say was 'just in case'.”

PC Gorman says he still cannot see how the IOPC can justify the lengthy investigation.

“It’s frustrating to find that people have been investigated for numerous burglaries, for example, and they are dealt with within a week. Yet this seemed to take 18 months to investigate what was pretty much given to them as a full package within 24 hours of the incident.”  

PTSD is nothing to be embarrassed about

“I’m still under occupational health because I’ve got ongoing anger issues because of the way the investigations left me and PTSD.

“I don’t think there’s anything to be embarrassed about. Plenty of people have it and it’s good to highlight the levels of stress that officers and officers’ families are put under,” PC Williams told Police Oracle.  

“I found at the start I wasn’t able to worry about myself because I was having to worry about the knock-on effect on the family.

“My partner, she was affected quite a lot by it. She’s in the police too -she used to work with somebody whose partner went through an IPCC investigation.

“So she developed stress-related symptoms because of the constant worry.

“Because I couldn’t think of myself it wasn’t until a year later when everything had calmed down my mind starting thinking ‘bloody hell’. That’s when I got diagnosed with PTSD.”

PC Gorman says the ordeal cast a cloud over what should have been one of the most joyful times of his life - his wedding and the birth of his first child.

“It just put a horrible taste on everything.

“I find myself being more emotional than I usually am. My wedding speech was literally full of tears and I was never like that before.”

For PC Garfitt the investigation has left a “bitter taste" in his mouth.

But none of the officers can fault the support of the force - CC Jon Boutcher was with his officers within hours of Mr Brunner’s death and “set the tone” for the rest of the force, they say.

What would you say if IOPC director general Michael Lockwood came for dinner?

“I’d tell him to get his house in order,” quips PC Garfitt.   

“Not only did they not manage to get any criminal charges. We’re waiting for a commendation from our chief constable for our good work.” 

PC Gorman added: “Not all police officers are bad guys. I think that was the main thing I took away - it seemed to me that they automatically thought we were guilty of something.

“In my opinion, it did not seem to be impartial.”  

Mr Mallen said the four officers’ experience will strike a chord with many officers who have encountered IOPC investigators. 

He said: “We recognise as police officers if someone dies following an interaction with the police, it’s right and proper there should be a robust scrutiny of the facts of the matter.

“But it’s not necessarily a default position that the police officers are to blame for what has happened.

“Unfortunately these four and other officers I represent are often left with that view the IOPC is out to achieve some sort of outcome.

“Very rarely is it a deliberate pre-conceived thought process. That’s not what police officers are about. They come to work every day to help people.” 

The IOPC released a statement in January saying its investigation was completed in November 2017 and the report would be published in due course.

At the time of writing, the report has not been released and a spokesman for the organisation said he could not put a date on its publication.

The IOPC declined to be interviewed for this article or to provide the report into its findings but released the following statement:

“In the early stages of the investigation after review of the initial evidence gathering and prior to receipt of the final pathologist’s report (which we did not receive until May 2017) the investigator believed there were reasonable grounds to suspect that offences may have been committed. These potential offences were: Misconduct in Public Office (MIPO), Actual Bodily Harm and breach of Section 7 of the Health and Safety in Work Act. It was decided that any suspicion that the offences of Gross Negligence Manslaughter (GNM) and Unlawful Act Manslaughter (ULM) were committed was not reasonable and the officers were never under investigation for these offences.

“Following receipt of the final pathologists report and review of all the evidence then available the investigator reviewed all the possible offences in connection to this incident, including Gross Negligence Manslaughter and Unlawful Act Manslaughter and decided there was no indication/reasonable grounds to suspect that the offences of GNM or ULM may have been committed.  

“It was in accordance with their training and the IOPC Discrimination Guidelines to ask the questions relating to whether they treated him [victim of mistaken identity] any differently because of his race and/or ethnicity. All six officers were white, the man arrested was black, and an asylum seeker. Our investigators are trained to ask questions about the rationales for officers’ behaviour and to identify whether these may have been influenced by any protected characteristics of detainees, and had they not done would potentially have left some questions unanswered."

The officers were not shown their Body Worn Video footage ahead of the inquest because there was not enough detail in their stage three accounts and the IOPC "wanted an untainted account which set out their honest held belief of any actions or decisions during the stop, restraint and medical assistance of Mr Brunner”.

“We do not withhold BWV to trip up the officers in any way and explain to them that we do understand there may be discrepancies between memory and recorded footage,” the statement said.

Chief Constable of Bedfordshire Police Jon Boutcher said: "This is the saddest possible story and the thoughts of the force and especially the officers involved are with Mr Brunner's family. 

"It should be remembered that these officers came to work that day to do their best in keeping people safe and were working on a street drugs operation seeking to remove drugs from Bedford.

"In doing their job this tragedy unfolded and the officers did everything they could to save a man's life.

"The subsequent investigations and implications of how such matters are conducted often leave police officers feeling like criminals when all they have done is their best to keep us all safe.

"My heart goes out to the Brunner family and I also commend the officers for doing all they possibly could to save his life that day.

"It is also not lost on me what those officers have been through." 

View On Police Oracle

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Yet another story of utter incompetence from the IOPC. I never understand where this completely biased and irrational view comes from that officers must be persecuted whenever something bad happens.

At the end of the day if someone wants to try and swallow something and dies then it’s tough luck really. 

At least for these officers there is something positive at the end of this.

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Good to see that the officers were backed by the Coroner, and the Chief Constable. It highlights what we have known for years, that the IOPC is far from in dependent and is, in fact, biased against the Police.

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Although I am happy that the Officers were found to have done nothing wrong and were found to have gone above and beyond to help the individual and his self inflicted plight, kit throws some interesting incite into the lets say operation of the IOPC.

I have extensive dealings with the IOPC and it is my opinion through experience and dealings with the organisation, that they do not care about the more mundane complaints. This is not to beliitle those complaints just to highlight they do not meet the scale of the one in this particular topic.

The difference in tenacity the IOPC shows between media highlighted complaints and those that do not receive any media recognition would lead one to draw a conclusion that the IOPC are nothing but glory hunters.

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It beggars belief at how badly this investigation was handled. From the outset the IOPC investigators have formed an opinion of what happened prior to gathering the evidence and speaking to those involved. They have gone for the jugular and kept that biased opinion regardless of where the evidence has taken them. That opinion has tainted the evidence gathering process and for me, shows a worrying level of unconscious bias towards misconduct of officers and racial prejudice. Had the police handled the investigation in this manner then it would have been headline news, yet the IOPC brush it under the carpet time after time.

I agree Zulu that they are not independent. I feel for the officers. However, there are probably many more officers currently under investigation by the IOPC who are being treated like this.

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