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Investigation into force used by police on elderly disabled man in care home

Sussex Police (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Sussex Police (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The police watchdog is investigating whether two Sussex Police officers used excessive force against a 93-year-old man.

Sussex Police were called to a care home in St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, on June 21 following a report that a male resident with dementia had a knife and was threatening staff.

The man, 93-year-old Donald Burgess, was wheelchair-bound and had one leg.

When officers were shown to Mr Burgess’s room one of them used Pava spray, which is similar to pepper spray, and the other deployed a Taser, before the knife was removed from the man and he was handcuffed.

The man was taken to hospital afterwards, where he remained until his death three weeks later on July 13.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is investigating the allegations of use of excessive force after Sussex Police referred itself to the watchdog.

IOPC regional director Graham Beesley said: “I want to express my sympathies to the man’s relatives and those who knew him.

“We have advised his next of kin of our independent investigation and explained the steps we will be taking.

“This will include investigating whether the force used by the two officers against this male was reasonable, necessary and proportionate in the circumstances and in line with local and national policies, procedures and guidance.”

So far the IOPC investigation has included taking witness statements, reviewing the officers’ body-worn footage, and attending the post mortem examination on July 21. The cause of Mr Burgess’s death is not yet known.

Gross misconduct notices have been served on the two officers involved, both police constables, with letters advising them they are under criminal investigation for manslaughter.

The IOPC says these actions do not necessarily mean disciplinary proceedings or criminal charges will follow.