THE widow of a landscape gardener who died after being restrained by police at King’s Mill Hospital says she hopes lessons will be learnt in the wake of his death.
Victor Massey (54), of Palmerston Street, Westwood, had been receiving treatment for acute pancreatitis at the hospital but died in the early hours of 8th August 2006, shortly after barricading himself in a shower cubicle.
Police had arrived at the hospital to find Mr Massey smashing up glass in the room and jabbing a shard of glass out of the gap in the door as others officers tried to calm him down.
But officers sprayed Mr Massey with CS gas when the door had caved in and handcuffed him after they had dragged him out of the room.
He died shortly afterwards after suffering a fatal cardiac arrest as nurses tried to resuscitate him.
In a narrative verdict, the jury said the use of CS gas spray was inappropriate and his breathing would have been restricted when police restrained him face down on the floor.
The jury said there was no adequate exchange of information concerning Mr Massey, who had also suffered hallucinations from being given painkillers, between the police and hospital staff.
They also said the police had not had a suitable strategy in place for dealing with the incident and nobody took control of the situation.
Although his wife Jane Massey had been on the way to the hospital, none of the staff had passed this information to the police.
The inquest also highlighted a lack of training for both the police and hospital staff.
Speaking minutes after the jury’s verdict, Mrs Massey said the police and hospital had ‘desperately failed her husband’.
“I suppose for us it will always be 2006, it’s such a waste because it should never have happened. I couldn’t get to him, I couldn’t save him.
“The one thing I could never understand was how could you CS gas on a man who had been on oxygen for six days and had breathing difficulties,” she said.
“When we went to the corridor, I followed the nurse’s eyes to the door and I could see Vic lying there. There were leg restraints, handcuffs and the (police officers) were kneeling all over him.
“I told them at the time - if I knew he couldn’t take it, why didn’t they? They were the nursing profession. I hold King’s Mill Hospital equally responsible, just as I hold the police responsible.”
Mr Massey’s daughter Hannah added: “When he left his bed he was crying out for help.
“When he was restrained he got eye contact with one of the police officers and said ‘please help me’.”
During the eight-day inquest a pathologist told the jury that Mr Massey had died from cardiac arrest following restraint in combination with acute pancreatitis and tramadol administration.
King’s Mill Hospital night nurse Ianthe Manning said Mr Massey was ‘the most violent patient I have ever seen’ and police said they sprayed CS gas on him as they feared he would harm himself or others with the shard of glass.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which after studying an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) report decided not to seek prosecutions against any officers involved in 2008, said they would examine the inquest findings to see if a review of the earlier decision was required.
Martin Gotheridge, deputy coroner for Nottinghamshire, said: “I realise that you cannot in any way make up for the loss of Victor Massey but we have now had a full and detailed account of how he died and the terrible way in which circumstances appeared to conspire against him in the light of what happened on that tragic night.”
Carolyn White, Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust chief executive, said: “The trust’s own internal investigations, carried out at the time, identified a number of areas where improvements could be made.
“Those recommendations have been fully implemented and we continue to monitor carefully the risks posed to our patients and staff as a result of violence and aggression, including where patients are ill and confused.
“We have also worked closely with Nottinghamshire Police to ensure that guidelines are in place to help clinical staff and police officers when dealing with incidents at our hospitals to ensure that the police and our clinical staff have all the information they need.”
Paul Broadbent, Assistant Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire Police, said: I deeply regret the death of Mr Massey and on behalf of Nottinghamshire Police I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to his family and to his many friends.
“The events leading up to Mr Massey’s death have also been examined by the IPCC to whom we referred the matter in the hours after his death.
“We have now received its report and have acted on each and every one of its recommendations. Most importantly, the force has developed a protocol with King’s Mill Hospital to ensure that effective procedures and working practices are in place to manage patients who become aggressive and violent in a hospital setting.
“The officers who attended King’s Mill Hospital were faced with a violent situation which required quick-thinking and immediate action. There was a significant concern that Mr Massey could either self-harm or cause injury to hospital staff or police officers.
“As is often the case when police are faced with volatile and dynamic circumstances, split-second decisions need to be made, and the tactics deemed most suitable applied. In this case an officer chose to use CS spray.
“Four of the officers who were called to the hospital that night have been the subject of an internal enquiry and have received management advice as a result.”
Mr Massey’s family described him as a kind and gentle man who was always there for his wife, children and grandchildren.
“He always liked to have a laugh and joke and he was a very social person, but he was romantic as well and always bought me flowers,” said Jane.
The family are now pursuing legal action and calling for the police and NHS to learn lessons from his death.