17 July 2019

Following the conclusion of the inquest into the death of Nuno Cardoso, Doroteia dos Santos, Nuno’s mother said:

My family and Nuno’s friends have had to endure over a year and a half of waiting since Nuno’s death and six days of evidence in the coroner’s court to find out the truth about how he died. We are extremely disappointed by the jury’s conclusion.

When he died, Nuno had just started his first year of a law course in Oxford at Ruskin College. He was excited to be starting on this new path. When he got the place, he called me straight away and said, “Mum, I will make you proud of me, I will be the best lawyer in the country, I promise.” Nuno was the soul of the house and was very outgoing. Anywhere Nuno was, people would be laughing and happy, he was very charismatic. He was also very caring.

Nuno was the youngest of my children, and the bonds we shared with him as a family have been broken so abruptly. Nuno and his sister used to speak constantly even when they lived apart, and he liked to check in on her, as if he were the older sibling. Every time we think of him we hear laughter. Often when we are together we remember his jokes, his witty comments or a story he once told, and are grateful to have shared those moments with him. We are thankful that we were blessed by such a beautiful, caring person even if was for just a short time. We know so many people who feel lucky to have known him, he touched lives like an angel here on earth and is so greatly missed and will always be.

The jury accepted the evidence of the police officers involved in Nuno’s arrest and detention at Ruskin College that they did not believe that Nuno had swallowed drugs nor did they believe that he had anything in his mouth at any time. This was despite video footage which showed a conversation between the officers at the time about whether Nuno had anything in his mouth and a comment about taking him to hospital. In particular, the officers asked Nuno what he had in his mouth and asked to have a look inside his mouth. One of the officers told Nuno that if he did not show them what was in his mouth, they would go to the hospital to have him X-rayed. The officer even said that what they did not want to happen was that Nuno would swallow something which would have a really bad effect on him later in the police station. This turned out to be an empty threat: Nuno never opened his mouth to show the officers whether he had anything inside his mouth and he was not taken to the hospital.

Each of the four officers involved in Nuno’s arrest and detention accepted in evidence that they knew of the guidance which said that if someone was believed or suspected to have swallowed or be packing drugs that they should treat the situation as a medical emergency. They also accepted that they had a duty of care to my son.

The John Radcliffe Hospital was just five or six minutes away from Ruskin College, yet the officers put Nuno in the back of a police van in handcuffs and after several minutes set off for Abingdon Police Station, which was around 20 minutes away. Nuno collapsed in the back of that police van, on the way to the police station.

My family and Nuno’s friends also have serious concerns about the way in which the officers’ evidence developed. It should be noted that, following Nuno’s collapse in the back of the police van, the four officers involved in Nuno’s arrest and detention travelled back to the police station together. Their sergeant told them that they could talk between the four of them but not to talk to anyone else. This was contrary to the advice that should have been given to them about not conferring about the incident. The four officers later wrote up their initial accounts, around the same time as each other, and not one of them mentioned the conversation they had had about whether Nuno had something in his mouth and taking him to hospital. The first time any of them mentioned that conversation was in their much later detailed statements, by which time they knew that the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) was investigating Nuno’s death as a death in custody and that the IOPC had the body worn video footage of that conversation. Again, despite the footage, in those statements each of the officers claimed that they did not really think Nuno had anything in his mouth.

We have also had to listen to evidence that Nuno was struck with a baton and fist strikes when he was already restrained on the floor by the four officers. We have maintained our dignity in the face of those officers saying that these were reasonable uses of force. The press requested footage of the incident, including the footage that showed the force used by the officers, but to my disappointment the coroner decided not to give access to the press of this section of the footage and furthermore to pixelate the faces of the officers. If the officers truly did no wrong by the force they used, I see no good reason why this part of the footage should be kept from the public.

My belief is that those officers did not care for my son. No matter what Nuno was alleged to have done that caused the police to be present in the first place, he should have been afforded respect and dignity. I do not think he got that on 24 November 2017 from those officers.