11th May 2016

Mr Yusuf, a married father of one, was arrested by Bedfordshire Police on 13 June 2015 and taken to Luton Police station.  He died later that morning of a cardiac arrest. The cause of death was given as cocaine, MDMA and alcohol toxicity. 

The inquest heard evidence that Mr Yusuf arrived at the station wearing shorts and a vest. A pair of jeans were bought to the station and searched before he was allowed to put them on.  However, the pockets in his shorts were not checked. This was despite his wife and mother in law informing officers that he may have taken drugs as his behaviour was out of character.  Mr Yusuf also informed officers that he had been drinking alcohol during the previous night.  This information was not passed on to the custody sergeant responsible for his welfare.

Mr Yusuf was held in a CCTV monitored cell under 30 minute observations without the need for arousals. The jury saw footage of Mr Yusuf inside the cell suggesting he had taken cocaine between 10:52 and 11:05.  Further footage shows he was checked at 10:48 and 11:22, the later lasting one second and was carried out by a detention officer who glanced through the spyhole in the cell door and recorded no concerns. The alarm was raised at the next check at 11:54 however CCTV footage showed Mr Yusuf suffering on going seizures throughout with a period of stillness of seven seconds only before the seizures began again. 

During the emergency response items were found on Mr Yusuf with traces of cocaine and cannabis and there were traces of cocaine on the cell blanket.

The jury found the search of Mr Yusuf in the custody suite was inadequate and that the following factors may have caused or contributed to his death:

  • Had the custody sergeant been provided with all the relevant information Mr Yusuf may have been strip searched and the drugs discovered
    • There were clear errors in the cell check observations
    • The training of police officers was inadequate
    • The glance at 11.22 was inadequate and would not have seen signs of life
    • The 11.22 check should have been earlier and may have shown Mr Yusuf convulsing and may have led to earlier medical intervention
    • The use of spyholes for checks was not adequate and contravened national guidance.

Dwight Smiley, speaking on behalf of the family, said:
“Istiak was a bright, ambitious and compassionate man who adored his family. He was a loving husband and an amazing father. His family, including his father, mother and two brothers, meant everything to him and we were all very close. We will miss him greatly”.

Claire Brigham, family solicitor said:

“The family were let down by Luton police, who had a duty to protect Istiak while he was in their care. The family welcome the jury’s conclusions that the search and checks carried out on Istiak were inadequate. They feel that if the police had done their jobs properly, Istiak might still be with them today”.

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST said:

“Sadly this is not an isolated case and at INQUEST we see this happen time and again. It is imperative that those charged with conducting observations and checks are adequately trained as this could be the deciding factor between life and death.  We are disappointed that the coroner will not be producing a Prevention of Deaths report as the issues raised in this inquest highlight important matters of national learning”.

INQUEST has been working with the family of Mr Istiak Yusuf since June 2015.  The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Claire Brigham from Hodge Jones and Allen solicitors and barrister Fiona Murphy of Doughty Street Chambers.


Notes to editors:

For further information, please contact: Anita Sharma on 020 7263 1111 or [email protected]