An inquest has been launched into the death of a teenager who died in police custody last month at a Liverpool shopping centre.
Mohammed Mzee’s family have demanded answers over the circumstances of the teenager’s death from the police watchdog IPCC.
Coroner Andre Rebello told Mohammed’s family at the court in Kirkdale on Thursday, at the inquest’s opening: “It’s really important that we celebrate Mzee’s life, and his humanity and his light.
“He needs to be remembered and respected and you should share happy memories with each other.
“Each one of you has a different relationship with him. His life was a precious as any other life, but you all know a different person because of those different relationships.
“Share those experiences. Talk about him. Make sure the pain and loss caused by his death is put into context.
“Keep his memory alive.”
Mzee was detained by police on July 13 after unconfirmed reports alleged that he was threatening members of the public with a 12-inch knife.
Video footage emerged of him held unconscious and barefoot by police with his hands cuffed behind his back.
Speaking about the footage at a Black Lives Matter event last month, Marcia Rigg, whose brother Sean died following a cardiac arrest while in police custody in 2008, said: “I was alarmed that he [Mohammed] appears to be fully unconscious, but his handcuffs haven’t been removed…How can you bring someone medical attention when they’re in handcuffs?”
Mzee’s mother Karla has said her son had been in trouble with the police before but had since turned his life around. He had returned to college to get GCSEs and was aspiring to work as a chef. She said he was fit and healthy with no pre-existing medical conditions.
Responding to the coroner’s comments, racial equality campaigner Zita Holbourne told 5 Pillars: “It sounds grossly patronising for a coroner to tell a family they need to keep the memory of their loved one alive”.
The IPCC investigation could take nine months to complete but Zita is concerned it may take longer.
“Nine months is already a long time to put grieving on hold but the reality is it takes several years for families seeking justice, for the truth to come out, for answers to come out, if they do, and sometimes they have to go through more than one hearing to get justice. For some families it even takes decades,” she said.
Coroner Rebello has suggested an external police force be brought in to assist the IPCC investigation. A legal representative for the IPCC has said they have still not received full statements from everyone involved in the case and that “no criminality has yet become apparent in their investigation”.
Speaking about the stress lengthy investigations can cause for families of those who die in police custody, Ms Holbourne said: “They [families] are suddenly forced into the light of the media, they are having to navigate their way through the judicial system, having to wait a long period.
She added: “No lessons have been learned in all the years since the Macpherson Report- after the Stephen Lawrence inquiry- set out recommendations for addressing institutional racism in the police and other public sector bodies.
“The police as an institution is still racist. We shouldn’t have to be seeing yet another family fighting for justice for a young black man that died in police custody, which was completely avoidable.”
The inquest has been adjourned until 11 November.