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Victim of CS gas tragedy laid to rest as watchdog appeals for information

By Luke Barnes

Published 16/09/2016

Family and friends of Gerard McMahon help carry his coffin at the funeral in Belfast yesterday
Family and friends of Gerard McMahon help carry his coffin at the funeral in Belfast yesterday
Gerard McMahon
Family and friends of Gerard McMahon help carry his coffin at the funeral in Belfast yesterday
Family and friends of Gerard McMahon help carry his coffin at the funeral in Belfast yesterday

The family and friends of a man who died after police used CS spray to incapacitate him in Belfast city centre have paid their final respects to him.

Gerard McMahon (36) passed away last Thursday after a "violent incident" on Great Victoria Street in the early hours.

Police were called to the scene after reports that a man had become involved in an altercation with taxi drivers.

According to investigators, Mr McMahon spent more than two-and-a-half hours walking through the centre of the city before arriving at a taxi rank at around 5am.

An officer used CS gas as police struggled with Mr McMahon during an attempt to arrest him.

His condition quickly deteriorated and police administered first aid until an ambulance arrived at the scene.

Paramedics used a defibrillator, but they were unable to save Mr McMahon, who died in hospital. No weapons were recovered from the area.

Requiem Mass for Mr McMahon was held at St Matthew's Church in Bryson Street, where hundreds of friends and relatives gathered to pay their respects, with burial taking place at Roselawn Cemetery.

Mr McMahon, who was from the Short Strand area of the city, was known to his friends as DJ Mako.

His casket was draped with a banner bearing the logo of Space nightclub in Ibiza.

Family and friends paid tribute to him on social media.

Mr McMahon's aunt said that she was "totally heartbroken" and added: "If love could have (saved) you yesterday you would still be here."

Another post said: "You could never have met a nicer person."

His heartbroken parents, Gerard and Ella, called for a "thorough and swift investigation" into his death by the Police Ombudsman.

They said: "Our family are grieving for our son and brother, Gerard, and are calling on the Police Ombudsman's office to carry out a thorough and swift investigation into the circumstances of his death."

Andree Murphy, deputy director of Relatives for Justice, said that the incident raised troubling questions about the PSNI's use of "less-than-lethal" weapons such as Tasers and CS spray.

She added: "The family deserve a prompt and transparent investigation into acceptable policing methods.

"We have had a number of concerns about these technologies since the Patten Report, and there's a lot of competing evidence about the dangers of CS spray and Tasers.

"The legacy of less-than-lethal technologies in Northern Ireland from the Troubles means that we need to be extra vigilant.

"The conversation cannot just have a beginning, middle and end - it needs to be ongoing."

"The onus is now on the Ombudsman to deliver a clear, effective and transparent investigation that garners the confidence of the family."

SDLP councillor Brian Heading, who said he remembered the effects of CS spray from the 1970s, added: "It's a tragedy for the family, and the Police Ombudsman should be looking at the suitability of these devices."

The case has now been turned over to the Ombudsman's office, which has launched an investigation and is appealing for information from the public.

Belfast Telegraph

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