This man died in police custody two years ago. His family still want answers

This man died in police custody, two years ago today. So why are his family are still looking for answers?

Two years ago Ken and Alison Orchard took a call from their son Thomas's mental health team saying he had failed to turn up for a meeting.

Later that day they found out why: the 32-year-old, who suffered from schizophrenia, had been arrested by police in Exeter on suspicion of a public order offence. While in custody Thomas had been restrained with a 7in emergency response belt fastened across his face.

He collapsed and was taken to hospital in a coma and a week later on October 10 - two years ago today, which happens to be World Mental Health Day - his life support machine was switched off. A post-mortem revealed he had suffocated.

The IPCC's formal investigation has not concluded and the police officers involved in the case are still on active duty but no longer involved in working with the public. The family are still waiting for the CPS to make a decision on any criminal charges.

Thomas's sister Jo, 35, is one of his family members still fighting for answers. Until that time Jo's MP, Caroline Lucas, is raising the issue in parliament and the charity Inquest is also working with the family.

"They said initially it was going to be within the first year. This time last year they said it was going to be by Christmas. Here we are, one year later and we still have nothing", Jo told

"When you don't know a lot of the details and you feel quite bleak about the justice process it makes grieving an impossibility. It was frustrating this time last year and now we're just feeling absolutely angry and messed around."

She said that Thomas, who had worked as a church caretaker, was living in supported housing and managing his schizophrenia well before his death. "It was only in the few weeks leading up to his death that he relapsed," she explained.

  • Jo, Thomas's sister
Keep reading...Show less
Please log in or register to upvote this article
The Conversation (0)