Officer ignored 'can't breathe' claims before death

Mohamud Hassan
Mohamud Hassan was found unresponsive at a flat on Cardiff's Newport Road [Family photo]

A police officer dismissed a man's claims he was having a fit and couldn't breathe during his arrest, an inquest has heard.

Mohamud Hassan, 24, died on 9 January 2021 after being found unresponsive at a flat on Newport Road, Cardiff.

The previous evening he had been arrested on suspicion of breach of the peace and was released without charge.

Last year a police disciplinary panel found that his death was not related to his time in custody.

The jury in Pontypridd was shown footage of Mr Hassan being handcuffed by South Wales Police officers at the Cardiff flat.

In it Mr Hassan can be heard repeatedly saying, "I'm having a fit", complaining he could not breathe and that officers were hurting his hands.

His arresting officer PC Hart described him as having spat and been "uncooperative", before explaining why he had not believed his claims about not being able to breathe.

"It's something that's said to officers an awful lot," said PC Hart, adding that Mr Hassan "speaking clearly" and being "conscious of what was going on" also made him think he wasn't telling the truth.

PC Hart later said he "couldn't recall" whether he told the custody detention officer at Cardiff Bay Police Station that Mr Hassan had claimed to have had a fit.

But he added that information, along with him saying he had banged his head, would have been relevant details to pass on.

Asked about the apparent omission of these details from the custody records relating to Mr Hassaan's detention, PC Hart said: "I should have ensured they were written on there."

The jury also heard from John Riding, a retired police sergeant who had been the custody officer who had dealt with Mr Hassan.

He said he remembered PC Hart coming into the foyer and asking for help with a person in the back of the van, suggesting they were "a bit of a handful".

He said Mr Hassan was eventually taken to the cell in a "five man carry" and he was put on level two observation, meaning that he should be checked at least every 30 minutes.

Asked about the conversation between him and PC Hart, Mr Riding said he "didn't recall" whether he had been told that Mr Hassan said he had asthma and didn't believe he was told he had hit his head or had complained of a migraine.

He added that Mr Hassan had "settled down quite quickly".

Last week, the jury heard that Mohamud Hassan's cause of death was "unascertained" following a post mortem examination.

The inquest continues.