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Police 'Unlawful Killing' Verdict

Seven police officers were suspended from duty in March 1986 following an inquest verdict that a black Hell's Angel had been unlawfully killed in police custody. The inquest jury decided unanimously that the degree of negligence involved in the death of John Mikkleson amounted to manslaughter and returned a verdict of unlawful killing.

Mikkleson, believed to have been the only black Hell's Angel in Britain, was arrested in west London in July 1985 after police followed him and two friends. During a violent struggle, Mikkleson was hit over the head with a truncheon by an officer who told the inquest that he was using it for the first time in his 7-year career. Mikkleson and the others were taken eventually to Hounslow police station where, according to evidence presented to the inquest, he was left lying and apparently unconscious on the floor of the charge room for 30 minutes. A woman sergeant eventually called an ambulance, but Mikkleson was dead on arrival at hospital having suffered brain damage and asphyxiated on the contents of his stomach.

The inquest heard from a leading pathologist that Mikkleson might have survived if he had received adequate treatment. Dr Iain West of Guy's Hospital said that anyone who was unconscious, semi-conscious or drunk should not be placed in a police cell but should be taken to hospital. Anyone who had been hit with a truncheon and who did not come round should be taken straight to hospital, he added.

In December 1986, the High Court quashed the verdict of unlawful killing and ordered a fresh inquest on the grounds that the coroner had gravely misdirected the jury. In February 1987, the second inquest jury decided that Mikkelson's death was due to 'misadventure'.

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