Olaseni Lewis, known to his family as Seni, was a young black man aged 23 years, engaged in post-graduate Masters studies in IT and Business Management at Kingston University. He had no prior history of mental illness or any untoward behaviour until the evening of Sunday 29 August 2010 when his family and friends noticed that he was behaving strangely, alternating between calm and agitated phases. They sought professional help, resulting eventually in his admission as a vulnerable voluntary patient at the Bethlem Royal Hospital early in the evening of Tuesday 31 August 2010. Within hours of leaving him at the hospital, however, they were to learn that he had collapsed after being restrained by police officers who had been called by hospital staff. Seni was taken by ambulance to Mayday Hospital where brain stem death was confirmed following tests on 3 and 4 September 2010.
Seni’s family and friends are determined to ensure that all the circumstances of his tragic death are brought under proper scrutiny so that they can obtain the answers that they need from those responsible for the fatal restraint and those to whom their loved one had been entrusted. To that end, they will be keeping a close eye on the investigations that are said to have been launched by the Independent Police Complaints Commission and the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.
Deborah Coles, co-director of INQUEST, that is working with the family and their lawyer said:
This is a deeply disturbing death and it is vital both for the family and the public that there is a rigorous, far-reaching investigation into the fatal restraint of a vulnerable black man in need of care and protection. INQUEST has worked on far too many cases where dangerous restraint has resulted in the deaths of vulnerable people, a disproportionate number of whom are from black and minority ethnic communities.
The family and friends of Seni Lewis are grateful for all the very many messages of support and condolence that they have received in the wake of his untimely death earlier this month. For the rest, they would ask all representatives of the media to respect their privacy so that they can grieve for their loved one in peace, and they will not be making any further comment at this stage.