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Restraints played role in death of DJ Gerard McMahon detained by PSNI, inquest told


Gerard McMahon

Gerard McMahon

Gerard McMahon

An inquest into the death of a Belfast DJ who lost consciousness while being detained on the ground by PSNI officers has been told that his restraints played a role in his passing.

Gerard McMahon died in hospital on September 8, 2016 ­- hours after police responded to reports of a violent incident involving a male dressed only in boxer shorts at Great Victoria Street.

The 36-year-old, from Short Strand, was placed in handcuffs and moved to the steps of the Grand Opera House.

While initially he was calm and joked with the officers, moments later he became agitated and appeared to attempt to escape.

A struggle on the ground ensued between Mr McMahon and officers, who used CS spray, placed limb restraints on his legs and put him in the prone position, during which he became unresponsive.

The court previously heard how two of the officers restrained him by holding his shoulders while a third held him by the legs and applied limb restraints to his ankles and knees.

Police officers performed CPR after he became unresponsive and called for an ambulance.

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Despite their efforts, Mr McMahon did not regain consciousness and passed away in the Royal Victoria Hospital later.

An earlier hearing was told that Mr McMahon suffered from acute behavioural disturbance (ABD), a condition that sparks bizarre and erratic behaviour.

During the last day of evidence yesterday, Sean Doran, who is counsel to the coroner Joe McCrisken, was examining the pathology evidence into Mr McMahon's death.

The state pathologist for Northern Ireland Dr James Lyness, consultant forensic pathologist Dr Nathaniel Cary and forensic pathologist Dr Richard Shepherd all gave evidence.

Dr Lyness, who conducted the post mortem examination on Mr McMahon's body on September 10, 2016, described the case as "complex" and said that "multiple factors need to be considered".

Within his autopsy report, Dr Lyness outlined the cause of death as hypoxic ischemic necrosis of brain, pneumonia, and multiple organ failure, following cardiac arrest during physical restraint in association with an ABD, cocaine toxicity, rib fractures, exposure to CS spray, obesity and coronary artery atheroma.

He added that he included Mr McMahon's rib fractures, obesity and use of CS spray in his final report as they may have contributed to his cardiac arrest.

"There is a theory that Mr McMahon could have died from cocaine toxicity whilst the restraint was going on but I don't agree with that," stated Dr Lyness.

"The facts of the matter are that restraint was happening to him as he had his cardiac arrest and you cannot pull the two apart and say it was just cocaine or just restraint."

He added: "It's quite clearly in my autopsy report, quite clearly in the letters I provided, I believed restraints played a role in this gentleman's death."

Dr Lyness also addressed suggestions on social media that Mr McMahon had suffered a broken neck at the hands of police.

He explained that he found a fracture within the bones of the voice box.

"Yes, those sit within the neck but for most people a neck fracture would be the spine and I did not find any fracture of the spine," he stated.

The inquest will continue tomorrow morning before the findings will be delivered next Friday, March 12.

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