THE police officer in charge of the search of Habib Ullah thought he was “faking” injury before a paramedic arrived and found he was unconscious, an inquest heard.

The 39-year-old died on July 3, 2008 after being restrained by officers in High Wycombe who were trying to force a package of drugs out of his mouth, Buckinghamshire's coroner has heard this week.

Detective Sergeant Jason Liles said on Wednesday that Mr Ullah went 'limp' after a struggling with three officers, who then stepped back.

He said: “Mr Ullah's mouth was firmly closed and couldn't be opened. That led me to believe that was a voluntary action on his behalf.... I still thought he was being difficult.”

In his statement made the day after the incident, DS Liles said Mr Ullah was coughing at this point but officers “thought no first aid was required”.

It also read: “I noted the fact that his chest cavity continued to move. His eyes were fixed but this didn't concern me. I still genuinely thought he was faking injury or illness.”

But on Wednesday he told jurors at the Evreham Centre in Iver that Mr Ullah had been placed in a recovery position and he was wrong to leave this out of the statement. The inquest heard no CPR was given.

DS Liles said Mr Ullah's mouth was still clamped shut when officers checked again and there was no way to check his airway.

An ambulance was called by another officer, the inquest heard. On arrival a few minutes later, a paramedic was able to open Mr Ullah's mouth and found he was unconscious and had suffered a cardiac arrest, the inquest heard.

DS Liles said he still suspected Mr Ullah was play-acting up until the paramedic's arrival but insisted he “couldn't have done anything more” to ensure his safety.

Mr Ullah had been stopped in Sharrow Vale along with two companions after police intelligence that he was involved in the supply of Class A drugs, the inquest heard.

Sean Horstead, representing the family, suggested that a sudden “back slap” by DS Liles during the search may have caused the package of drugs to become lodged in Mr Ullah's throat and blocked his airway.

DS Liles responded: “I think that risk is so minimal compared to the more likely outcome of the item being expelled from his mouth. I didn't have the time to perhaps take a few steps back and pause for a minute and think about the risk.”

Emma Forbes, who was also searched, has told the inquest she saw Mr Ullah “swallow something into his throat” shortly after the back slap. DS Liles said Miss Forbes was “lying” because Mr Ullah would not have been facing her.

Mr Horstead also suggested that various 'compliance techniques' used by officers in the struggle had reduced Mr Ullah's ability to breathe.

DS Liles accepted, “with hindsight”, this was likely to be the case, but said the techniques were “all proportionate and reasonable in the situation”.

The inquest continues.

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