Before HM Senior Coroner Ian Stewart Smith
Opened 13 November – concluded 28 November 2018

The inquest into the death of Adrian McDonald has today concluded that his death was caused by the “effects of cocaine and stress of incident”, in which he was arrested, restrained, bitten by a police dog, Tasered and left in a police van struggling to breathe. Adrian was originally from Huddersfield and was 34 when he died on 22 December 2014. His family and friends say he is deeply missed by all of them, but most of all by his two young children.

Adrian had been at a birthday party in Chesterton when he began to behave erratically, barricading himself in a room. Staffordshire police were called and reported that the information given led them to believe he was distressed and rambling. While attempting to arrest him, they Tasered and simultaneously set a dog upon him. Evidence was heard that five dog bites from a police Alsatian were found on Adrian’s right arm and leg, which went through the skin, fat and into the muscle.

The jury’s narrative conclusion stated that due to the use of force, Adrian “became compliant”, “However due to [Adrian’s] cocaine induced paranoia the level of force may have increased his stress levels which may have contributed to his death.”

Adrian told police he had taken drugs and was struggling to breathe. He was removed from the flat down the stairs. The jury noted that when exiting the flat Adrian “began to become paranoid again… but was reassured that he was safe by police officers.” The jury believed that “at this point no ambulance was necessary”. Adrian was then taken to the police van. Van and police body camera footage was shown at the inquest as evidence of the final minutes of his life. The jury found “This would have been the appropriate time to complete welfare checks and assess the deceased condition.” Welfare checks did not take place.

Whilst one officer stayed in the van, the other two went back into the property to carry out post Taser incident procedures. The footage shows Adrian heavily breathing and slumped in the cage area of the van. In total Adrian was recorded saying “I can’t breathe” four times, coupled with the word, “Please”. At one point the officer replies: “You can breathe because you are talking, deep breaths.” The jury noted that the officer was ‘coaching’ Adrian to breathe. Still no ambulance was called.

By then Adrian was twitching and shortly afterwards lost consciousness. Evidence heard at the inquest showed that a further nine minutes went past before an ambulance was called but Adrian could not be saved and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Two pathologists gave expert evidence at the inquest. They both found that a combination of factors were relevant, including the high levels of stress arising from being bitten and tasered, and cocaine toxicity. Family pathologist Dr Nigel Cooper told the inquest, “He died from a combination of cocaine and stress, it is as simple as that. In general terms the greater the stress the greater the risk of death.” He continued, “I don't know how much pain Adrian was in but pain is a form of stress.”, adding, “Cocaine could cause anyone's death but in the overall circumstances it was not just the cocaine.”

Wayne McDonald, Adrian’s brother, said: “My brother suffered horrific injuries that night. He was tasered whilst a dog bit him repeatedly, and although he asked for help nobody thought he needed medical assistance. Adrian didn’t kill himself that night.

We are devastated as a family that after nearly 4 years of searching for the truth we are left with this jury’s conclusion. They could not decide whether or not the police played any part in Adrian’s death. They’ve just said the police may have contributed to his death.

Adrian loved his family and it pains us to watch his children growing knowing that he is missing out on all of their milestones. Adrian had so much to live for and it feels so unfair that he isn’t here with us today.”

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST, said: “When responding to those displaying signs of paranoia and distress, the police must do much better than resorting to the violence of tasers and dogs. De-escalation would have been a far more appropriate response and may have stopped Adrian from suffering in this most horrific way.

Use of force is disproportionately a tactic employed against people with Black, Asian and minority ethnicities. The Angiolini review into deaths in police custody made pragmatic recommendations to address this ongoing failure, which we call on the Government to urgently enact.

Our thoughts are with Adrian’s family who have gone through almost four years of agony trying to make sense of what happened to their much-loved Adrian.”

Ruth Bundey of Harrison Bundey solicitors, who represents the family, said: “The senior officer said at the outset of the incident that this was a man suffering a delusion and temporary impairment of mind. This should have rung alarm bells. Since 2016 due to new policy and training a man presenting as Adrian did must be treated as a medical emergency and taken straight to A&E.”



For further information, please contact Lucy McKay on 020 7263 1111 or [email protected]

INQUEST has been working with the family of Adrian McDonald since his death. The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group member Ruth Bundey of Harrison Bundey solicitors, and Jason Pitter QC of New Park Court Chambers, Leeds.

Statistics compiled by Staffordshire police show that taser (known as Conducted Energy Devices or CED) were deployed 188 times in the financial year 2017-18.

This year a Staffordshire Police Federation report found that 78% of members surveyed want Tasers to be made available to them for every shift, and currently 39% have them.

In December 2016 the inquest into the death of Darren Lyons in Staffordshire police custody found a series of failures by police, civilian custody staff and medical professionals in the care of Darren Lyons, who had a history of mental ill health and alcohol dependency. Darren was suffering from mental ill health, but instead of being taken to a health setting was taken to custody where he died of failures by police, civilian custody staff and medical professionals in the care of Darren Lyons, who had a history of mental ill health and alcohol dependency.

The Independent review of deaths and serious incidents in police custody by Dame Elish Angiolini published on 30 October 2017 made a series of recommendations on tackling discrimination, through recognition of the disproportionate number of deaths of BAME people following restraint and the role of institutional racism, both within IPCC investigations and police training.