Teen died after breathing tube was removed

CUSTODY DEATH ... Darren O'Connor.
CUSTODY DEATH ... Darren O'Connor.

A DOCTOR told an inquest that a South Tyneside teenager who died in police custody did not have “suicidal” thoughts.

Darren O’Connor, also known as Lyons, died in police custody on July 7, 2010, after being arrested in South Shields town centre after breaching his bail conditions.

He was taken to the police station at Mill Dam, but the partially paralysed 19-year-old – who had a tracheostomy tube in his neck after a cycling accident three years earlier – was later found struggling to breathe, with the tube removed.

The inquest heard police officers and paramedics tried in vain to reinsert the tube before an ambulance took him to South Tyneside District Hospital, where he died in the early hours of the morning.

An investigation was launched by the police watchdog, the Professional Standards Department, and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) also looked into the death.

An inquest began yesterday at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court to determine the cause of Darren’s death.

The proceedings, which are expected to last two weeks, are being heard by South Tyneside Coroner Terence Carney and a jury of 11 people, who will return a verdict after all evidence has been heard.

Darren lived with his mother, Michelle and two younger brothers, Bailey and Mckenzie, in East Avenue, Harton, South Shields.

Dr Rajesh Bhalla, a GP at Wawn Street Surgery, in South Shields, had treated Darren his entire life.

He told the inquest that in March 2009, Darren was displaying some signs of depression.

He said: “He admitted drinking up to four bottles of wine a day and I treated him for moderate depression. I gave him a prescription for anti-depressants, but he never repeated the prescription.

“I knew Darren all his life and he could have been a bit of a bad lad in his younger days, but after his accident he became more frustrated than anything else about the loss of his voice and his injuries, but I don’t feel that he was suicidal because of that.”

Explaining the sequence of events leading up to Darren’s death to the jury, Mr Carney said: “He was placed in a cell and placed under constant observation because of his tracheostomy.

“He took it out and couldn’t or wouldn’t put it back in, and an ambulance was called.

“He was transported to South Tyneside District Hospital and paramedics struggled to get it back in.

“When he got to the hospital, a member of staff managed to get it back in and they started CPR to revive him, but he was sadly dead.”

Home Office pathologist Dr Mark Egan, who carried out the post-mortem examination on Darren, said that he had no recent injuries but a number of marks of medical intervention.

A toxicology report found that he had 183mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood – more than twice over the drink-drive limit of 80mg – and that he would have displayed “obvious drunkenness”.

He ruled that the cause of death was hypoxia, meaning a reduction of oxygen, resulting in cardiac arrest.

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