Who was Christopher Alder?
Christopher Ibikunle Alder was born in 1960 in Hull and was of Nigerian descent. He was brought up in the care system with his siblings and then joined the British Army at the age of 16 and served in the Parachute Regiment for six years. After leaving the Army, Christopher first settled in Andover, Hampshire, before relocating to Dagger Lane, Hull, in 1990. In 1998 he was taking a college course in computer skills in Hull. He had two sons.
On April 1, 1998 Christopher had been punched at a nightclub and was arrested after becoming aggressive at hospital.
He died face down in custody at Queens Garden police station with his trousers around his ankles and his hands cuffed behind his back.
He had suffered the following injuries:
haematoma at the rear of his head caused by impact but not consistent with a direct blow
localised swelling to the area of the left side of his upper lip
two wounds to the left side of his upper lip which were not bleeding
front left canine tooth knocked out and the tooth adjacent to it upon the left upper side loosened and pushed into his mouth
minimal bleeding from the tooth that was knocked out
A post-mortem failed to establish the cause of death but what happened to Christopher triggered huge amounts of anger across the city.
What was the legal implication?
The Monkey Noises
Tapes from the custody suite cameras were seized in April 1998, but a section containing monkey chants and laughter was not investigated until March 2002, a fortnight before the trial began. This evidence was never put before the jury. The crown prosecution service said it never tried to have this evidence admitted because it could not be determined who was making the noises. The CPS and West Yorkshire police, who investigated the case, refused to say whether any of the officers on the tape had been questioned about who made the noises. The CPS also said it could not be proved the monkey chanting was racist as someone could have been reacting or laughing at an officer who uttered the word "banana", shortly before the monkey chant was heard on the tape. In a letter to Ms Alder, the CPS says an expert determined the sounds on the tape to be "chimpanzee or monkey like". It continued: "It is not possible to infer that there was a racist motivation here."
The body mix-up
Even with all that Christopher’s family had gone through over the years, not even they could have anticipated the latest shocking twist. After years of believing she was in cold storage, the family of Grace Kamara, a Sierra Leonean woman who died, finally came to Hull to bury her. There had been delays because family members struggled to get a visa to come to the UK to identify her body.
Mrs Kamara lived happily in Hull for 40 years after moving over with husband Momoh, who hailed from Freetown in Sierra Leone, a city twinned with Hull. But little did she know how ignominious her death would become.mLeft in a mortuary for years, it transpired she was inadvertently buried in Christopher’s grave. Hull City Council admitted discovering the body of Christopher at the mortuary where Mrs Kamara's body should have been. Plans for her funeral turned to farce when her relatives insisted on seeing the body – an important tradition in Nigerian heritage. This led to the council admitting it had made a terrible mistake.A criminal investigation was launched which was conducted by South Yorkshire Police. There was further heartache for Christopher’s family after it was revealed the ashes of his niece were scattered over the grave which they now knew did not contain him.
At an inquest held in 2000, the jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing. The five police officers who were present in the custody suite at the time were called to give evidence at the inquest, but on more than 150 occasions during the hearing, they refused to answer questions, citing Coroners Rules that the response could provide self-incriminating evidence. They were subsequently charged with misconduct in public office. Shortly after the verdict was returned, the officers, backed by the Police Federation, sought to overturn it by means of a judicial review. They claimed that the coroner should not have given a verdict of unlawful killing as an option to the jury, as the breaches of duty alleged against them could not amount to gross negligence
Trial of Police officers
The Crown Prosecution Service initially decided that there was insufficient evidence to pursue criminal charges against the officers but, following a review of the medical evidence, the officers were charged in March 2002 with Alder's manslaughter. In June 2002, the trial collapsed when the judge ordered the jury to find the officers not guilty on all charges. Following the acquittal, an internal police disciplinary inquiry cleared the officers of any wrongdoing.
If you want to find out more about other victims of police and state violence in the UK, click here.
The proportion of BAME deaths in custody where restraint is a feature is over two times greater than it is in other deaths in custody. The proportion of BAME deaths in custody where use of force is a feature is over two times greater than it is in other deaths in custody. The proportion of BAME deaths in custody where mental health-related issues are a feature is nearly two times greater than it is in other deaths in custody.