Inquiry begins into death of ex-boxer who died at hospital

A former boxer died while in custody at a hospital after he was restrained by staff, an inquest has heard.

Smethwick Council House
Smethwick Council House

Fitz Albert Francis died on February 22, 2009 at Penn Hospital in Wolverhampton.

A jury inquest into his death at the mental health hospital began yesterday and is expected to last all week.

The coroner's court at Smethwick Council House heard how Mr Francis, aged 59, was arrested on January 30, 2009 for throwing items out of the window of his fifth-storey flat in Graiseley, Wolverhampton.

He was taken into custody and remanded by a court to go to Winson Green Prison.

It was while he was there he refused to take medication for schizophrenia and was eventually transferred to Penn Hospital.

Dr Robin Balmain, the senior coroner for the Black Country, addressed the jury into the background of Mr Francis.

He said: "It was while at Winson Green Prison it was decided that Mr Francis needed to be hospitalised. He was still in custody but this was at Penn Hospital."

It was said that Mr Francis became aggressive towards staff, biting one, and then threatening to take off his belt to assault workers.

Statements from police officers who attended Penn Hospital on February 22, 2009 after the patient died were read out by Dr Balmain.

He read the statement of Pc Satvinder Heer which said: "Speaking to a member of staff Mr Francis had become aggressive throughout the evening. He began throwing his fists around and assaulted a member of staff. He was offered drugs to calm him down and was administered with an injection."

Pc Simon Pritchard's statement said: "They (Penn Hospital staff) placed him face down to administer an injection. Shortly after this they noticed the he had stopped breathing and carried out chest compressions to resuscitate him."

Mr Francis went into a cardiac arrest and died.

Prof Peter Vanezis examined the body of Mr Francis.

He described how Mr Francis had a fracture to his rib as well as abrasions to his arms and legs.

Prof Vanezis said: "An examination of the ribs showed a fracture and a degree of bruising. He also had an enlarged heart which had scar tissue."

He went on to explain these could have been a result of high blood pressure and his view for the cause of death was heart disease compounded by physiological restraint.

Alicia Spence who is a director of the Afro Caribbean Community Initiative based in Wolverhampton said that Mr Francis regularly used their services.

She said: "He used to be a boxer and he lost his eye and I don't think he ever got over it and it contributed to his mental state. He also lost a brother. He had a very supportive family and they would come to meetings at the day centre."

Mr Francis was born in Jamaica before moving to Britain where he worked as a welder.

The inquest continues.