Cops who confronted Sheku Bayoh after responding to reports of a man on a public street “wielding a machete” could have simply let him walk away.
That’s the extraordinary argument being put forward by the Bayoh family in ‘After Sheku’ which airs tonight on BBC2.
“The bottom line is, if the police had just left Sheku to walk down the street, if they hadn’t met with Sheku, would he have just walked down the street and died on his own? That’s where the question is,” asks a relative.
The documentary follows the family’s campaign to discover why Sheku Bayoh died while being detained on Hayfield Road on the morning of May 3, 2015.
In the programme, the trainee gas engineer is described as a fun loving, caring man; the “perfect gentleman”.
But his behaviour in the run-up to his fateful encounter with police was markedly different.
Sheku’s friend Martyn Dick claimed he didn’t see Sheku take ecstasy and the legal high ‘Flakka’, traces of which were discovered in a postmortem, but in a reconstruction of events described how Sheku began to behave erratically while they watched a boxing match on TV.
He left to return to his house with another friend, Zahid Saeed.
Sheku’s girlfriend, Collete Bell – and mother of his son, Isaac – was staying at her mum’s house that night.
She told the programme: “On the morning of May 3, I got a phone call at 6.30am from Zaeed saying to phone him as soon as possible and I thought that was very strange.
“He was like don’t panic, don’t worry, we’ve just had a fight, he just started beating me up but he’s alright and I’m okay – don’t go home, he’s not himself .”
Ade Johnson, Sheku’s brother-in-law, police told the family that six officers had approached Sheku on Hayfield Road and had tried to “engage” with him.
“Sheku refused to engage. they pepper-sprayed him and then he lashed out, kicking a policewoman,” he said.
“She fell to the floor. He stamped on her head on the floor, he was kicking her head.”
According to Aamer Anwar, the family’s lawyer, up to nine officers restrained Sheku within seconds using handcuffs, leg and ankle restraints.
He said: “He lost consciousness within two minutes, never to regain consciousness again.”
A postmortem report later detailed 30 separate injuries to Sheku’s body and head.
He was not carrying a knife at the moment police approached him - but a knife was later discovered near the scene.
Mr Anwar, who argues that the police response should have been “reasonable, legitimate and proportionate” intends to launch a civil action against Police Scotland this year.
He tells the family in the documentary: “Our argument is if Sheku had carried on walking, would the drugs have started to wear off. We don’t know.
“He wasn’t doing anything at that point, so when the police arrived they should have dealt with him appropriately.”
Meanwhile the Lord Advocate is considering a report submitted following a “complex investigation” carried out by the Police Investigations Review Commissioner.
He told the Press: “The Bayoh family never wanted to be campaigners but because of their love for Sheku and the need for justice they have been forced to become campaigners.
“The documentary is an honest portrayal of their heartbreaking journey as they fought for answers over 21 long months.
“This year will be significant one as the Crown Office makes a decision on potential criminal prosecutions but a long journey still lies ahead.”
The programme airs at 9pm tonight (Tuesday) on BBC2 Scotland.