9th July 2013

A jury has returned a verdict of unlawful killing (unlawful act killing) in the inquest into the death of Jimmy Mubenga. Jimmy Mubenga, a healthy 46 year old Angolan man, died on 12 October 2010 following face-forward restraint in his seat by three G4S security guards on a British Airways flight from Heathrow airport to Angola.

The jury ruled that Jimmy Mubenga died on the plane. In their verdict they rule that based on the evidence heard, ‘Mr Mubenga was pushed or held down by one or more of the guards causing his breathing to be impeded.

‘We find they were using unreasonable force and acting in an unlawful manner. The fact that Mr Mubenga was pushed or held down, or a combination of the two, was a significant, that is, more than a minimal cause of death.

‘The guards we believe would have known that they would have caused My Mubenga harm in their actions if not serious harm. We find that Mr Mubenga died in his seat at approximately 20:24 and before the paramedics boarded the aircraft at 20:38.’

Mr Mubenga left behind a widow and five children aged one to 17 years at the time of his death.

Adrienne Makenda Kambana, Jimmy Mubenga’s widow said:

“The inquest helped me to understand what really happened in the plane. I now know how Jimmy died. I was so shocked to hear that a lot of people heard Jimmy asking for help but no-one helped him.

“This feels like a nightmare because Jimmy walked onto a plane feeling fine and came out of the plane dead. How can my family live with this pain. We’re not going to forget this because the last time I spoke to him he said I will call you back and he will never call me back again.

“I want to thank the jury who have helped me get closer to justice for Jimmy which will only be fully achieved when I can tell my children that those responsible have been properly held to account and no other family suffers in the way we are.”

A full statement can be accessed here

Deborah Coles, co-director of INQUEST said:

“The enormous sadness of this death was that it was the inevitable consequence of a privatised removals service that was out of control and where the duty of care and the wellbeing of deportees were undermined in the pursuit of profit. The Home Office must now learn the lessons of this death, bring the contract under control and save another family from the devastation suffered by Mr Mubenga’s widow and children.

“There are longstanding and well documented concerns about the conduct and accountability of the private removals industry and a pattern of complaints about the use of excessive force.

“As the passengers and crew on flight 777 sat by, Mr Mubenga met a horrific death at the hands of those who were charged with his care. The responsibility rests ultimately with the Home Office which devolved coercive powers without effective oversight and itself sat by while a culture of racism prevailed and the dangerous restraint of deportees became institutionalised.”

Mark Scott, solicitor for the family said:

“The initial CPS decision not to bring charges was completely inexplicable to the lawyers and our client. We are seeking an urgent meeting with Keir Starmer the Director of Public Prosecutions. The rule of law is called into disrepute where evidence this strong is not placed before a jury in a criminal trial.”

G4S is a private security firm which was contracted by UK Border Agency to escort deportees on flights until the end of April 2011. Reliance (now known as Tascor), also a private security company, took over the contract in May 2011.

The inquest heard eight weeks of evidence. This included:

  •     Witnesses describing Mr Mubenga as being pushed forward in his seat shouting for help, saying that he couldn’t breathe, repeatedly crying out for help
  •     The guards were trained in control and restraint and aware of the dangers of positional asphyxia when forcing someone forward
  •     Extreme racist texts were found on two of the guards’ phones forwarded to friends and colleagues
  •     There was a technique of forcing a deportee forward so that their shouts and cries were muffled that was called ‘carpet karaoke’. This was banned by G4S.
  •     No-one on the plane, either passengers, BA staff or guards stepped in to help Mr Mubenga or offer first aid
  •     Guards were on “zero hour” contracts or retainers and their wages were dependent on the hours that were worked. It was important to “get the job away” as they were incentivised for a successful removal
  •     G4S was paid by the hour and a failed removal had a direct impact on profits

INQUEST has been working with the family of Jimmy Mubenga since his death in 2010. The family is represented by INQUEST Lawyers Group members Mark Scott from Bhatt Murphy solicitors and barristers Henry Blaxland QC of Garden Court and Fiona Murphy of Doughty Street.

Ends

Notes to editors:

  1. INQUEST has produced a comprehensive briefing on the death of Jimmy Mubenga and the associated issues, available here
  2. There have been 12 unlawful killing verdicts at inquests involving deaths in state custody since 1990. Further information here