Man who died in Birmingham police custody carried sickle cell trait
A Birmingham man who died in police custody carried the sickle cell trait which could have played a part in his death, a tribunal heard.
Michael Powell, aged 38, carried the trait which according to research, coupled with severe physical exertion, could lead to sudden death.
Mr Powell, was taken to Thornhill Road Police Station in Handsworth, after causing damage to his mother’s home in Wilton Road, Lozells, on September 6, 2003.
The father-of-three, who had a history of mental illness and drug problems, died while in police custody.
His family have maintained that the police’s behaviour during the arrest was racially-motivated and he would have been treated differently had he been white.
The inquest heard that Dr Dennis Clive Bouch, a recently retired home office pathologist, carried out a second post-mortem examination on Mr Powell’s body on September 18, 2003, in the presence of three other pathologists.
During his lengthy examination, Dr Bouch found that apart from a laceration on his wrist, Mr Powell carried no external injuries which could have caused his death.
He also said there were no bruising called tramlines consistent with being hit by a police baton.
Dr Bouch then conducted an internal examination but apart from some bruising to each side of the ribs found no evidence of injury to deeper tissue or evidence of underlying disease.
No evidence of asphyxia was found in any of the organs, he told the inquest at Sutton Coldfield
He had also found that CS gas used by police on Mr Powell and the presence of cocaine or cannabis had not been factors in his death.
Dr Bouch said Mr Powell had the sickle cell trait but showed no symptoms.
Coroner Stephen Campbell asked: “Can a person who suffers from sickle cell trait also suffer from the disease?”
Dr Bouch said: “There a big debate, it was even more of a big debate six years ago.
“Things have moved in terms of research and knowledge. At the time I was unsure, I remember using books and internet to see it if was possible.”
Dr Bouch said he had read about some US recruits who had undergone extreme physical training, collapsed and died but the ‘mechanism had been unclear.’
He concluded, in his opinion the cause of Mr Powell’s death was unascertained and multi-factorial.
The inquest continues.