Death in custody - Christopher Alder
The bald facts are these: Christopher Alder, 37, of Hull, died at Queen's Gardens police station in Hull in April 1998. An inquest in 2000 concluded Mr Alder was unlawfully killed. Police were cleared of manslaughter and misconduct after a judge directed a jury to find them all not guilty.
The father-of-two had been arrested in hospital, where he was being treated for a banged head following a scuffle outside a hotel in which it seems that he was the victim. He was arrested after becoming aggressive and refusing treatment and after being escorted off the premises by police officers who had been called to assist hospital staff. It seems, from expert testimony given on the 'Death in custody' documentary shown on BBC1 yesterday evening, and trailed throughout the day on BBC news bulletins (there is a link to a video clip in this BBC story), that such aggressive behaviour can certainly be caused by drunkenness, and Mr Alder had just exited a nightclub at around 2am when the original attack on him took place, but it can also result from concussion. It seems that after having been punched in the mouth, Mr Alder lost consciousness and fell backwards onto the pavement, knocking the back of his head when he fell. So there were two major traumas to his head, that we know of.
The BBC1 documentary shown last evening showed a copy of the CCTV footage recorded at the police station, although Humberside Police had refused to release the original footage; however, BBC reporters had been invited to view the original footage by the police. It is not clear how the copy of this footage was obtained by the BBC. Post-death, CCTV footage was discovered subsequent to the inquest - this has evidently been seen by BBC staff and by some of the lawyers who spoke on the programme, but was not included in the footage broadcast last night, presumably because it was not included in the copy they had and Humberside Police have continued to refuse to make it available. Some of the contents remains perplexing, to say the least: sounds of 'monkey noises' and laughter. Relevance? Well of course there is no justifiable relevance, but Mr Alder was of Afro-Caribbean origin.
Naturally our Home Secretary, David Blunkett, is now to call for a review into the case of this former paratrooper who choked to death in police custody. The reason? Well, it is quite obvious that the matter can no longer be kept quiet. For this one must thank Mr Alder's sister, Janet Alder, who has quite simply refused to be quiet and accept what may well turn out to be a massive police cover-up. We shall see where this review leads in due course.
Would similar indifference to his plight have occurred if the arrested person was white? It is very difficult to say, but one has the queasy feeling that the behaviour of the police on duty that night was to some extent influenced by the fact Mr Alder was black.