The “heartbroken” family of a father who died in police custody claimed the police were lying to them about the circumstances leading to his death.
Father-of-two, Sheku Bayoh, 31, was detained by officers following an incident in Kirkcaldy, Fife, on May 3.
He was pronounced dead shortly after and an investigation into the cause of his death has now been launched.
But Sheku’s family, who described him as “kind, caring and affectionate”, say they were given five different versions of what happened and are seeking justice for his death.
They have also called on Police Scotland to suspend officers who attended the incident while an inquiry takes place.
Meanwhile, the Scottish Police Federation said it would make “no apology for standing up for the rights of police officers” and offered “sincere condolences” to Sheku’s family.
Sheku’s partner, Collette Bell, 26, fought back tears as she read a statement at a press conference in Edinburghtoday (Thursday).
She said: “Shek was my soul mate and my best friend. He was kind, caring and affectionate and had so many aspirations.
“He was working hard to make a better future for our family and we had so much to look forward too.
“I need answers as to why he was taken from me.
“I need to know why as my partner lay dying a few streets away the police were busy lying to me in my house then a police station.
“I want to know the whole truth of the circumstances surrounding his death so that one day I can explain to my son Isaac Bayoh why he has had to grow up without his daddy.”
The cause of the death is still unknown with inquiries still being carried out by Crown pathologists and independent pathologists.
However, the family claim they were given five versions of events by Police Scotland officers over the course of 10 hours until they were finally told he had died in police custody.
It is understood Sheku left his house sometime between 7am and 7.30am on May 3, walking a distance of approximately a mile.
The family was advised that police officers who were in the midst of a shift change at Kirkcaldy police office responded to an alert following calls from members of the public.
It is understood that nine police officers detained Sheku with handcuffs to the rear and leg restraints, before he lost consciousness.
CPR was attempted at the scene and an ambulance was called but he was pronounced dead at Victoria Hospital at 9.04am.
Sheku’s sister, Kadijartu Johnson, 37, described her brother as a “hard working father, who lived for his two boys”.
She said: “Sheku was the only boy in my family and had three elder sisters; he was always our baby brother.
“Sheku moved to this country from Sierra Leone when he was 11 years old and moved to Scotland when he was 17 because I was living in Kirkaldy.
“He was a kind man at the heart of his community and loved by so many people.
“At this point in time our family is heartbroken, not able to grieve; his body is still in
mortuary all alone.
“I can’t believe that Police Scotland chose to lie to my family just hours after my brother’s death.
“Even after 3pm on Sunday they were claiming that they were looking for two people and that a member of the public had found Sheku lying on the street.”
In a statement, Sheku’s family’s solicitor, Aamer Anwar, said the family did not understand why the officers involved were not immediately suspended without prejudice after his death.
He said: “It is a matter of wider public concern that officers remain at their desks or in contact with the public pending the outcome of the investigation into the death in custody.
“For the Chief Constable to suspend the officers without prejudice is not a question of prejudging the outcome of the investigation but ensures neutrality, integrity of the investigation, transparency as well as protecting officers involved in such incidents.
“The Bayoh family understands that neither Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) nor the Lord Advocate can enforce such a decision and would strongly urge Chief Constable Stephen House to take full control of the situation.
“Today, the family are putting their total faith and trust in the Lord Advocate and PIRC.”
Sheku, who worked for British Gas, was father to four-month old Isaac and Tyler, his three-year-old son by a previous partner.
It is understood that none of the officers involved have been interviewed and are still carrying on with their duties.
PIRC said a report on its findings will be submitted to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service in due course.
Brian Docherty, chairman of the Scottish Police Federation said: “The Scottish Police Federation (SPF) recognises that the family of Sheku Bayoh is mourning his death and that this is a painful process.
“The SPF does not wish to add to that pain by making unhelpful comments to the press.
“We are saddened that his legal representatives appear not to take the same approach.
“We are also saddened that his legal representatives are inferring police officers should not have the same legal protections as any other member of the public.
“A petite female police officer responding to a call of a man brandishing a knife was subject to a violent and unprovoked attack by a large male.
“The officer believed she was going to die as a result of this.
“I very much regret that Mr Bayoh sadly lost his own life following this incident but innuendo and speculation whilst the independent investigation is ongoing adds nothing other than to the pain.
He concluded: “We make no apology for standing up for the rights of police officers and we continue to extend to the family and friends of Mr Bayou our sincere condolences.”