Sister of man, 28, who died after collapsing in police van questions why his handcuffs stayed on during seizures

The sister of a man who died days after collapsing in a police van in Wigan has questioned why police did not remove his handcuffs while he was ‘fitting’, during the first day of an inquest into his death.

Ianec Boghiu, a welder from Moldova, ‘collapsed’ in a police van after being arrested on suspicion of child abduction in Tyldesley in July, 2019, a jury at an inquest at Bolton Coroner’s Court on Monday (December 11) heard .

The 28-year-old was arrested on July 3, 2019 and held in a police van where he suffered a seizure. He was removed from the van and had a further seizure while being placed in an ambulance by paramedics, the jury was told.

It was only once he was inside the ambulance that his handcuffs were removed. Once inside he suffered two cardiac arrests and a further seizure and was rushed to Royal Bolton Hospital where he died five days later on July 8.

During the first day of the inquest into his death, Mr Boghiu’s sister Iana Boghiu repeatedly questioned why her brother was left in handcuffs while he suffered two seizures.

Giving evidence she told the jury her brother had had a ‘few jobs’ in Ireland working as a welder but had returned to Moldova in June, 2019 to finish a business degree. Whilst in Moldova she said he made some friends who said they were going to help him find a job in Manchester.

Iana said that on July 2, 2019 she and her brother had planned to meet for dinner but Ianec went to their parent’s home to pick up some ‘documents’ instead and got into an ‘argument’ with their father. She said her brother then returned to the UK and that he messaged to tell her he was ‘fine’ and would call her the next day. She did not hear from him again. On July 8 she attended Royal Bolton Hospital to identify his body.

Iana told the jury that her brother had had mental health issues but was receiving counselling and had no other health issues. She said she had taken him to A&E a ‘few times’ previously due to him suffering ‘an episode’ during which he would ‘hear and see things’.

She said she was not aware of her brother receiving a mental health diagnosis but that he was given medication and counselling and had become ‘calmer’ as a result of the treatment he received.

Bolton Coroners’ Court
(Image: Manchester Evening News)

Coroner Peter Sigee asked Iana whether she was aware of her brother taking any ‘illegal substances’ and she said she was aware he took illegal substances but said she did not know what or how much he would take.

The inquest heard that on July 3, 2019 Greater Manchester Police (GMP) were called to Tyldesley town centre shortly after 1.30pm after receiving reports that a man in his underwear was ‘trying to get into cars’ and ‘grabbing women’ on the street.

It was also reported that the man, later identified as Ianec Boghiu, briefly returned to his home on Wareing Street before re-emerging in clothes and attempting to take a baby from its pram.

Giving evidence, former detective inspector Matthew Moore from GMP’s Wigan Division, who is now retired, told the jury he attended the incident and on arrival found Mr Boghiu ‘clammy and pale’ with ‘bulging eyes’ and ‘pupils like pin pricks’ being restrained by town men on a bench.

He told the jury he arrested Mr Boghiu on suspicion of child abduction and handcuffed him under caution in the ‘front stack’ position with his hands in front of him. He said Mr Boghiu was ‘mumbling’ in a foreign language but not responding.

Bolton Coroner’s Office.
(Image: Manchester Evening News)

Mr Moore told the jury that Mr Boghiu’s behaviour led him to suspect he was suffering with acute behavioural disturbance (ABD) and said that people experiencing ABD often become very hot and ‘strip off’.

The detective inspector said he then handed over to other officers and went to Mr Boghiu’s home address where he found remains of a white powder and a bong but said he was not able to say how recently the drugs were taken.

On his return to the scene he found Mr Boghiu handcuffed on the floor in the recovery position. Mr Moore said Mr Boghiu had begun fitting and was being taken into an ambulance by paramedics as he left to attend another incident.

Iana Boghiu asked him whether it was ‘normal’ to keep someone in handcuffs when they are fitting.

Mr Moore replied that he was not ‘actively involved’ in the decision as he was leaving when the paramedics arrived and Mr Boghiu began fitting. He however said it is a decision that has to be made based on the incident and that it is a ‘judgement call’, adding that it is not beyond the realm of possibility that the person in custody may be ‘faking it’.

Giving his evidence, PC James Caunce, who took over from Mr Moore at the scene, told the jury that when he arrived Mr Boghiu was ‘shaking aggressively’ but ‘not resisting in any form’.

Bolton Coroner’s Court
(Image: MEN Media)

He said a police van being driven by PC Rachel O’Connor then arrived shortly afterwards. He told the jury that when PC O’Connor went to open the door Mr Boghiu appeared to ‘lunge’ in her direction and was subsequently taken to the floor by himself and other officers.

Whilst on the floor he said Mr Boghiu sat up and said: ‘I remember I can walk’ and walked into the van. It was the only time he spoke in English. Mr Boghiu was then re-cuffed with his hands behind him instead of in front, the inquest heard.

PC Caunce said once in the van Mr Boghiu ‘fell forwards’ and began ‘fitting or shaking’ and was pulled out by officers who then placed him in a recovery position on the road outside.

He said PC O’Connor radioed for an ambulance again saying it was needed ‘urgently’. Once the ambulance arrived Mr Boghiu had another fit. He was still handcuffed.

PC Caunce explained that he did not want to take off Mr Boghiu’s handcuffs and risk getting into an ‘altercation’ and ‘putting himself or anyone else’ in danger.

Addressing PC Caunce, Iana Boghiu asked: “He [Mr Boghiu] followed all the directions. When he was told to do something he did. Why did it take so long to take off the restraints? I don’t see evidence he was violent.”

PC Caunce replied: “He was unpredictable and when he lunged for PC O’Connor ultimately that is the unpredictable nature of it. We don’t know what is going to happen when we take those handcuffs off.”

Coroner Sigee then asked PC Caunce: “If the handcuffs had been taken off earlier could you have provided any additional care or first aid treatment?”, to which PC Caunce replied: “No”.

Referring to the police van cage, Iana Boghiu then said: “It’s like putting an animal in a cage… why would he need handcuffs in the cage?”, adding: “It seems OTT.”

PC Caunce explained that if a person was placed in the police van cage without handcuffs there would be a ‘risk of struggle’ in a small space and said it was ‘more appropriate’ to keep handcuffs on someone in the van while they are transported rather than removing them and then reapplying them.

Iana Boghiu then asked whether her brother could have been placed in a ‘better recovery position’ if he had not had handcuffs on, to which PC Caunce admitted the recovery position Mr Boghiu was placed in was not ‘gold standard’ but suitable under the circumstances.

When giving her evidence PC O’Connor described the moment Mr Boghiu ‘lunged’ towards her. She said he ‘suddenly grabbed forwards’ towards her taser and then ‘grabbed’ her police vest. PC O’Connor said she ‘pushed him away’ but he had a ‘strong grip’.

When asked by coroner Sigee whether she thought Mr Boghiu’s handcuffs should have been removed when he started fitting, she said: “He tried to grab hold of me twice, he was unpredictable and it was safer for me and my colleagues for him to stay in handcuffs.”

PC O’Connor also said that when the paramedics arrived at the scene they initially wanted Mr Boghiu’s handcuffs to stay on but then asked for them to be removed 30 seconds later.

PC Andrew Dawson who helped PC Caunce restrain Mr Boghiu at the scene also gave evidence. He said that he, like Mr Moore, suspected Mr Boghiu was suffering ABD and echoed PC Caunce’s comments that it was correct for Mr Boghiu to remain in handcuffs.

He said: “In my view he did need to remain in handcuffs. We had information he had been violent,” adding: “even though he wasn’t being aggressive at that time things could have changed.”

PC Dawson said keeping handcuffs on in the cage was ‘normal practice’ and appropriate in the situation, adding: “We didn’t know how he was going to respond once the fit was over.”

Giving evidence, pathologist Dr Naomi Carter said a urine sample was taken from Mr Boghiu while he was in Royal Bolton Hospital.

She told the jury that the sample tested positive for ‘spice’ (synthetic cannabis), MDMA (ecstasy), cocaine, and cannabinoids (the chemical breakdown of cannabis). It also tested positive for benzodiazepine and ketamine but Dr Carter said this may have been due to the medical treatment he received.

Dr Carter told the jury that during an examination she found Mr Boghui’s brain was swollen but found no evidence of a traumatic brain injury. She also found no evidence his collapse was related to a restriction in breathing.

She said in her view Mr Boghui ‘behaved in the manner he did and collapsed when he did’ due to being ‘under the influence of drugs’ which caused him to exhibit ‘acute behavioural disturbance’ (ABD).

Dr Carter said the arrest was a ‘final stressing factor in a series of stressing factors’ but said that in her opinion the arrest alone was not the ‘sole cause’ of his collapse.

The inquest continues.

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