Matthew Terrill: Man arrested after being found unconscious in park dies in custody in Sheffield - inquest

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An inquest into the death in police custody opened today.

A pathologist has described a combination of factors including drugs and heart disease as a "cocktail of increased risk for sudden death" for a man who died in police custody in Sheffield.

Matthew Terrill died on April 20, 2020, aged 46, after being arrested and taken into custody at Shepcote Lane Police Station.

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At the inquest into his death, which opened today (February 19), a jury saw CCTV footage from the custody suite appearing to show Matthew swaying, and rocking back and forth, sometimes with his head in his hands.

Matthew Terrill, aged 46, died in police custody at Shepcote police station, in Sheffield, on April 22, 2020.Matthew Terrill, aged 46, died in police custody at Shepcote police station, in Sheffield, on April 22, 2020.
Matthew Terrill, aged 46, died in police custody at Shepcote police station, in Sheffield, on April 22, 2020.

He then appeared to hit his head back twice against the wall he was sitting against, leading him to be taken to a cell, where he later tried to hit his head again and was restrained by seven officers.

Officers remained just outside the cell while Matthew was face-down with his hands cuffed behind him, and his legs tied together in three places.

The footage was labelled to show him unmoving in this position for over 35 minutes before first aid began, with an officer once entering the cell, and others sometimes looking in from the doorway.

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A post mortem examination found evidence of a brain injury which Dr Jamie Robinson, consultant forensic pathologist, said was "indicative of a period of at least half an hour where the brain has been deprived of oxygen".

He said: "This could have occurred in the lead-up to Mr Terrill’s cardiac arrest. It could span the period while he was receiving CPR. It is not an exact figure."

A toxicology report showed evidence of recent drug use, including cocaine, heroin and spice.

Dr Robinson said:"“Spice is causing more risk, more pressure, more work for that heart and those lungs. Then the heroin acts to slow the breathing, so worsening the situation. 

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"All these factors are acting together on this man’s heart, which already has some level of heart disease, and on top of that we see this behavioural disturbance.

"He appears to be agitated, he appears to be combative, and he is obviously being restrained, which involves a period of exertion while he struggles against it. 

"He has got weight on top of him, potentially straining his breathing. He may have been overheating.

"It is a cocktail of increased risk for sudden death, putting greater and greater pressure on that heart."

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The post mortem found some vomit had been inhaled into the airways, and that his lungs were "full of blood, and fluid-filled".

Dr Robinson added: "He was semi-faced down for a long period, which may have reduced airflow, adding another layer of risk. Then the blockage to the airway, and there’s no air getting in at all."

Police body cam footage, also shown in court, showed officers arrest Matthew just before midday, after he was found unconscious in a park in Sheffield. Others were present who appeared to know him.

He also had external bruises, including an 11x10cm bruise on his central back, a 30x9cm bruise on his upper back, and "spotty purple bruising" behind his shoulders.

The jury inquest at Sheffield Medico-Legal centre continues, and is expected to conclude on March 8, 2024.