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Officers accused of assaulting innocent man feared he had weapon, court told

Metropolitan Police Sergeant Emily Joshi (James Manning/PA)
Metropolitan Police Sergeant Emily Joshi (James Manning/PA)

Two Metropolitan Police officers accused of assaulting a father they mistook for a robbery suspect claim he was acting suspiciously, resisted being handcuffed and say they feared he was carrying a weapon, a court has heard.

Sergeant Emily Joshi, 30, of Watford, Hertfordshire, and Pc Ozan Yelken, 33, of Waltham Abbey, Essex, have both pleaded not guilty to assaulting Emmanuel Ugborokefe by beating him and are standing trial at City of London Magistrates’ Court.

It is alleged they assaulted Mr Ugborokefe, who “felt discriminated against”, while stopping him, in a case of mistaken identity, in Wykeham Road, Hendon, Barnet, north-west London, on December 28 last year.

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The case is being heard at the City of London Magistrates’ Court (PA)

He was on Wykeham Road to collect a microwave he had bought on eBay, after a family shopping day with his wife and two daughters, then aged seven and eight, in Oxford Street, the court has heard.

Joshi and Yelken were on patrol on the day of the incident when they were called to reports of a Rolex robbery, after two suspects ditched a car and fled on foot near Mr Ugborokefe’s location, the court heard.

Police were looking for two skinny black males, wearing dark clothing with their hoods up, one of which had fur on the hood, in connection to the alleged robbery, the court heard on Friday.

Yelken said a volunteer from Shomrim, a neighbourhood watch group, indicated to him that a suspect or suspects had fled down Wykeham Road, saying: “They’ve gone that way”.

They approached Mr Ugborokefe – who all parties agree was innocent – who was wearing a dark-coloured jacket, which had fur on it, with his hood down, the judge heard.

Joshi handcuffed one of his wrists and explained he matched the description of a suspect.

He repeatedly pleaded “don’t handcuff me”, raising his free hand up in the air, before Yelken performed a “tactical take down” pushing him into a bush and then to the floor where he was fully handcuffed, as back-up officers arrived to help restrain him.

Mr Ugborokefe’s wife and children had by this point exited their car and were screaming, and he previously told the court he feared he would be “killed”, claiming: “I believe this incident occurred to me because of the colour of my skin.”

The prosecution argue the alleged assault did not begin when the first wrist was handcuffed, but that it started after Mr Ugborokefe’s wife and children arrived and it became, they say, clear he was not one of the suspects.

The defence say the officers “honestly believed him to be the robber throughout”, saying he matched the description of a suspect reported to be in the area, was seemingly on his own at night on the road, and was on his phone and so possibly arranging a getaway vehicle.

The officers allege he was not compliant in being handcuffed, which further aroused their suspicion, claiming he caused them to fear he was reaching for a weapon when he moved his uncuffed hand towards his pocket, the court heard.

Giving evidence, Joshi said: “I believed I was dealing with a robbery suspect,” saying the appearance of his family “didn’t explain why he was on the road at that time of night”, and adding: “I didn’t know what had actually been stolen at that point and I didn’t know whether there was any weapons involved.”

She said “robbery is a violent offence” and “suspects are known to carry weapons”, claiming Mr Ugborokefe was “very obstructive and resisting and my main focus was on mine and my colleague’s safety”, adding that she thought he was a “danger to myself and my colleague”.

She said she fell over a wall during the struggle to handcuff him.

During cross-examination, prosecutor Richard Milne asked if it would be “unusual” or “extraordinary” for a suspect to take their young children along for a robbery.

Joshi replied: “We have had incidents where people do take their children to commit crime.”

Yelken, who told the court he joined the force after the London Bridge terror attack in 2017, said he had “honest held belief that me and my colleague were in danger”, saying: “He’s a robbery suspect and could potentially pull out a weapon.”

He said the “Barnet the area we work in is well known for robberies where weapons are used”, adding: “I believed he could have taken out a weapon and hurt us.”

Yelken said: “I believed he was calling an Uber or a family member to come and collect him.”

The trial continues.