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Inquest into death after Tasering

Published 01/06/2015

The scene in Beard Road in Gorton, Manchester, where Jordan Begley, 23, was hit with a Taser by police
The scene in Beard Road in Gorton, Manchester, where Jordan Begley, 23, was hit with a Taser by police

The mother of a man who died after being shot with a police Taser saw the "fear in his face" moments before the officer pulled the trigger, an inquest heard.

Jordan Begley, 23, died in hospital two hours after being hit with the stun gun when police were called to his home in Manchester during a row with neighbours on the evening of July 10, 2013.

Today, at the start of the inquest into his death, his mother Dorothy Begley walked out of the courtroom in tears as the jury heard how her son was Tasered and struck by police officers while being restrained.

Nigel Meadows, Coroner for Manchester, gave the jury of seven women and four men an outline of the evidence they would hear during the inquest, scheduled to last up to five weeks at Manchester Civil Courts of Justice.

The officer said to have pulled the trigger, Pc Terence Donnelly, and four others, Pc Dave Graham, Pc Christopher Mills, Pc Peter Fox and Pc Andrew Wright, all serving with Greater Manchester Police (GMP), are expected to give evidence.

But the jury was told they will hear, "different accounts" of what happened to Mr Begley, who was not holding a knife or weapon when he was hit with the Taser, equipped with laser sights, from a distance of 70 centimetres (27 in).

Mr Begley, who worked in an ice cream factory, had been accused of stealing a neighbour's handbag and a row developed in the street, before he went back inside the house he shared with his mother, the court heard.

His mother called 999 as her son, a heavy drinker who also used cocaine, the court heard, was threatening to get a knife.

This resulted in a "Grade One" police response with a number of officers responding to the call to the family's mid-terrace house on Beard Road in Gorton, central Manchester.

Mrs Begley was asked by an officer to go inside and remove the family dog, "because they got the Taser out".

The coroner, reading from an opening address to the jury, said Mrs Begley saw her son in the rear dining room of the house and, "noticed his hands by his side and the officer had drawn his Taser, which he was pointing at his heart. She could recall seeing laser lights in his eyes.

"The officer was saying in a loud voice, words to the effect, 'This is your third and final warning! Step back!'

"She could see the fear in Jordan's face. He was not saying anything to the officers."

Outside the house Mrs Begley then saw an ambulance arrive and her son being stretchered from her home and taken to hospital.

Shortly after arriving at Manchester Royal Infirmary she was told her son was dead.

The court heard Mr Begley had been hit twice with the Taser then resisted arrest as officers struggled to cuff him.

He was hit twice with "distraction strikes", at which point, Mrs Begley, accompanied by two other women supporters, left the courtroom.

The jury heard details of Pc Donnelly's account, that he was called to the property and there was a "male with a knife at the house," and despite warnings to "step back". Mr Begley put his hands in his pockets and approached him.

Mr Meadows continued: "Pc Donnelly will say that this action of putting his hands into his pockets raised suspicion as to the whereabouts of the knife.

"Pc Donnelly will say that he told Jordan to stand still and show his hands, but that Jordan continued to walk slowly towards him with his hands in his pockets.

"In response, Pc Donnelly drew his Taser and told him to stand still, but he recalls that Jordan continued to move towards him, despite warnings, which led him to discharge his Taser."

After being handcuffed, Mr Begley's breathing changed to "abnormal" and another officer who entered the room noticed a bump over his right eye and a carpet burn on his face.

Mr Begley became "unresponsive" and was treated with a defibrillator while an ambulance was called.

The court heard a neighbour outside, Roger Boswell, said he saw "significant parts" of the incident.

Mr Meadows continued: "I understand that he might describe the events in a different way to that which a number of the attending police officers have done."

Expert medical witnesses will tell the jury Mr Begley suffered a cardiac arrest approximately two minutes after the Taser was deployed but it did not contribute or cause the heart attack he suffered but that his alcohol problem and intoxication at the time were "strong contributing factors" to a spontaneous cardiac arrest.

Another doctor expected to give evidence is of the opinion the Taser was "unlikely" to have caused cardiac arrest, which was "most likely" triggered by the stress of being restrained.

The jury will also hear from a third medical expert, who concluded Mr Begley's heart attack had a "multi-factorial origin" with "triggering contributions" from severe alcohol intoxication, recent cocaine abuse, and major hormone released during acute stress.

Neither the slight build of Mr Begley, or his close proximity to Pc Donnelly when he fired were "causal factors" in the heart attack, the court heard.

Mr Meadows told the jury a police officer must ultimately be able to justify the use of physical force and that it is "lawful, reasonable and proportionate in all the circumstances".

The inquest continued with the jurors being taken on a site visit to the house where Mr Begley lived and where he was shot with the Taser.

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