South Shields dad who died in police custody had ‘more likelihood’ of survival if taken to hospital sooner

South Tyneside District Hospital.
South Tyneside District Hospital.

A tragic South Tyneside dad who died just hours after being taken into police custody may have stood a greater chance of survival if he had been taken straight to hospital instead, an inquest has heard.

Chronic alcoholic Martin Leck was found unconscious in a police cell at about 10pm on the night of his death on March 22, 2013.

There was more likelihood he would survive at the hospital.

Dr Nigel Zoltie

After desperate attempts were made by police staff and paramedics to revive him, the 34-year-old was transported to South Tyneside Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 11.44pm.

Mr Leck, of Imeary Street, South Shields, was seven times over the drink-drive limit at the time of his death.

The inquest has earlier heard that Mr Leck was held in custody as it was believed he was in a drunken state - but not a drunk and incapable one.

Home Office Pathologist Dr Jennifer Bolton said the cause of his death was acute alcohol poisoning.

Jurors at the inquest into his death have been told Mr Leck’s breathing had slowed before stopping completely - leading to a cardiac arrest.

Dr Nigel Zoltie, an A & E consultant who compiled a report on Mr Leck’s death, told the inquest that his chances of survival were ‘very low’ once he suffered a cardiac arrest.

Dr Zoltie, who do does not work for South Tyneside Hospital, told the inquest: “I put in my report that his prospects were better if he was in hospital.

“There was more likelihood he would survive at the hospital.”

But Dr Zoltie said there was no guarantee the dad-of-two’s life could have been saved even if he had been transferred straight to hospital upon his arrest for being drunk and disorderly, rather than being taken into custody.

He added; “The likelihood of him surviving a cardiac arrest was very low.

“It would be well below 50%.”

Dr Zoltie told jurors that the affects of the alcohol poisoning on Mr Leck would have affected his brain’s ability to function.

He said there may have been no warning signs for medical staff to pick up that he was to suffer from a respiratory arrest.

The inquest continues.