Shock and disbelief have been expressed over the death of African Muslim man Sheku Bayoh who died in unexplained circumstances on Sunday morning.
The 31-year-old, known as Shek, died in hospital following an incident in which a female police officer was injured in a Kirkcaldy street around 7.15 a.m.
A witness described how officers surrounded Mr Bayoh during the incident and they then saw them administering CPR before he was taken to nearby Victoria Hospital, where he died.
As an investigation by the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) is carried out, friends and neighbours described Shek as “always smiling” and say he “brought happiness to everyone around him.”
And they described their shock and horror when they heard he had died suddenly on Sunday morning.
Many floral tributes were left at the scene of the tragedy at the corner of Hayfield Road, opposite Gallagher’s pub, where one woman said there had been a large police presence throughout Sunday, with officers searching through bushes and down drains and the whole section of the road cordoned off.
A fundraising event is being planned to take place at Blue Monday nightclub on Kirkcaldy High Street to help cover the costs of legal representation for the family.
Serena Mahmud (33), from Chapelhill, said her boyfriend was a friend of Shek and had known him for years.
“He lived in Templehall and my boyfriend used to drink with him, but hadn’t seen him for a while,” she said.
“He always described him as ‘a good guy’ and he was shocked when he heard what had happened.”
Ross Goodall of Lothian Terrace, just next to Gallagher’s said he had woken up around 8.00 a.m. to find police swarming the area and tape being put up.
“I went across and asked them what had happened and they told me it had nothing to do with me, then the next thing I knew they had put a notice through my door asking for anyone with information to contact them, which seems strange,” he said.
Aamer Anwar, leading human rights lawyer, is acting on behalf of Mr Bayoh’s family.
And he has vowed to leave no stone unturned in his search for answers as to how the father of two young sons died.
He said yesterday that the family has still to receive a full explanation of what happened on Sunday, and had “real, serious concerns about what happened to Sheku.”
Mr Anwar confirmed the Crown Office has been instructed to take over the investigation by Police Scotland, following talks yesterday with the Police Investigation and Review Commissioner (PIRC)
He said: “We have extremely serious concerns at the manner that Police Scotland conducted themselves.
“The family are extremely distressed, angry and upset by the fact that several different versions of what happened to Skeku were given in the hours following his death.
“You would assume police would get it right from the beginning.”
He added: “The family expect a thorough impartial investigation to be carried out and we will leave no stone unturned.”
Mr Anwar, who has previously represented high-profile clients such as Tommy Sheridan, said a case of this kind in Scotland was “extremely rare”.
“That’s why we have several concerns about the manner the investigation was initally carried out,” he said. “It was completely and utterly unacceptable in a modern police force.”
Fairness, Race Awareness and Equality (FRAE) Fife, set up in 1999 to promote racial harmony and eliminate racial discrimination across the Kingdom has echoed the sentiments.
It issued a statement, entitled ‘Tragic loss of young African Muslim man’, saying:
“FRAE Fife learnt with sadness the news of the tragic circumstances which led to the death of a young man in Kirkcaldy on Sunday morning.
“Our condolences go to the family, which has been known to FRAE Fife for many years.
“We wish the female police officer who was involved in the incident a quick recovery to full fitness.
“FRAE has for many years worked closely with the police to address many issues and concerns of importance to Fife’s Ethnic Minority communities. We acknowledge the hard work and strategic thinking of the Chief Superintendent (Garry McEwan) in moving forward the equalities agenda in Fife.
“However, at times like this, the full facts have to be found; hence an independent enquiry is needed.
“A loss of any life is sad but the loss of young father (Shaku Bayoh) is tragic.”
A spokesman for Mr Bayoh’s empoyers, British Gas, said: “Sheku was a valued member of the team in Edinburgh and our thoughts are with his family.”
Fife divisional commander Chief Superintendent Garry McEwan of Police Scotland said: “This is a tragic set of circumstances and my condolences go to the man’s family.
“The investigation of deaths in Scotland is the responsibility of Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), who have instructed the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) to lead on this enquiry.”
A report on the PIRC’s findings will be submitted to the COPFS. Both the PIRC and Police Scotland declined to comment further.