Terence Wheelock was one of the latter. His death and how the Gardaí treated the incident and also the bereaved family thereafter triggered an ongoing and expanding family campaign.
In the UK, official figures amount to 493 deaths in police custody since 1996. In all of these cases, no officer EVER had to face a court. Today, families and friends of the victims march in London.
THE DEATH OF TERENCE WHEELOCK
Terence Wheelock (20) was arrested with three others on 2 June 2005 at 12pm, on suspicion of stealing a car. They were taken to Store St Garda station and detained in cells. The friends he was arrested with say he was in good spirits in the station. A statement which the family's solicitor Yvonne Banbury took from a person detained in Store St at the same time as Wheelock describes him as singing in his cell. It is unlikely he would have been apprehensive about facing a possible criminal charge as he had an alibi accounting for his movements at the time the car was stolen.
Two hours after being brought in, at 2.40pm, he was found unconscious in his cell. Gardaí say that he was checked five times between 12.25pm and 2.40pm. A statement from another detainee at the station says they heard suspicious noises coming from the cell. The gardaí say they found him with a ligature around his neck – apparently this was the cord from his tracksuit bottoms. In order for him to hang himself he would have had to kneel on the ground and tie the ligature to a wall fixture that was there.
The gardaí tried to resuscitate him and the fire brigade brought him to the Mater hospital. He never regained consciousness and was put on a life support machine, while notifiying the family he would be somewhere else.
Terence's mother Esther recalls: "He was up painting in his room and said he needed a new brush; the one he had was no use, so I gave the money to go out and get one. He said he wouldn’t be long. Next thing I knew the police was at the door. They just turned around and told me there and then my son’s after hanging himself. I didn’t know what to do, I was taken aback. ‘Come on’ they said, ‘I’ll take you down to the hospital’. So the brought me out over to St James’ Hospital and all the time my son was up in the Mater. On the way over they said ‘Could you tell me where St James’ is?, I don’t where it is’. I had to show them the directions."
The Garda say this was a "misunderstanding between the gardaí and the ambulance control".
When eventually vistiting Terence in intensive care, his brother Larry recalls: "We noticed bruising... We asked the doctors could they photograph or would we photograph first with our mobile phones and they said no, and so that what is the procedure in a case like this is that they’ll do the photographs themselves. So the next day they took something from up to fifteen to twenty still photographs of Terence’s body and there appeared to be extensive bruising...which completely contradicts the Garda press release where it states that there was no bruising whatsoever on Terence’s body noticed by them or by the paramedics that came."
According to Larry and esther, in the hospital the neurologist Dr Kelly told them "the main trouble with Terence is all his organs and all are working perfect but he has a cerebral oedema which is a swelling of the brain and also with a lot of fluid from the top of the brain and down to the stem part. I was there, I said to the doctor what causes something like that to happen, and he said the reason Terence is like that is from the major blow or bang he received to the head."
Terence Wheelock died 3 moths later in hospital on the 16 September 2005. The Garda Press Office made a statement, claiming that Terence had tied a ligature around his neck, and secured this to a "fixture" which was "counter sunk into the wall" at the height of two and a half feet. The subsequent renovating of the cell after his death, and the lengths to which the Gardai went to prevent the family from accessing his clothes, has raised many serious and troubling questions about what happened to Terence Wheelock while in custody in Store Street on June 2nd, 2005.
List with names and incidents: http://www.villagemagazine.ie/article.asp?aid=1391&iid=88&sud=41
'DELAY, DENIAL & COVER UP'
In 2006, the Director of Public Prosecutions eventually decided that -- surprise, surprise! -- no charges will be brought against any Gardai in relation to Terence's death.
The Garda Commissioner had appointed Detective Superintendent Oliver Hanley from Dun Laoghaire Garda Station to examine the circumstances surround Terence's death. "The DPP's decision was solely based on Oliver Hanley's investigation," says his brother Laurence. "We have not seen that report. He investigated Terence's death, John Moloney's death, and every death in Garda custody in Dublin over the last 15 years. There was not one case of negligence brought against the State in his findings. [...] They never contacted us to let us know how the internal investigation was going. This Garda spent 15 years working in Store Street station, so he may as well be investigating his friends. So of course we were not happy with this type of investigation. The only type of inquiry we would be happy with is one completely independent of the State. Not someone like Judge Kevin Haugh as an Ombudsman, because he is still in some way attached to the State. He's still a member of the judiciary."
"Now if that isn’t bad enough when they first apparently found Terence in the cell it took them nine and a half minutes to ring an ambulance. When the ambulance men came Terence wasn’t found in a cell, he was found in a hall up at the main desk in the station. Then we contacted a solicitor at the hospital and she applied for a preservation order to preserve the cell for future technical examinations by our engineers and legal team as well as seasoned legal documents pertaining to the case. When we got the custody records, custody records were altered. The arresting Guards’ names were scribbled out and in effect that there was no arresting Guards whatsoever. By all accounts Terence shouldn’t even have been there. Not only that, the cell which had a court order preserving the cell for future technical examination was renovated almost immediately before our technical team could get to examine it and the alleged light switch that Terence was supposed to have tried to hang himself from was removed with the contractor that renovated the cell and we have no access to it. We think it’s a potential crime scene. These are people that deal with crime scenes all the time should that the importance of the situation, of the cell, that everything should be kept secure, forensic proof stored, etc., but all that went missing."
The family's solicitor Banbury has requested access to the ligature and his clothing, which were taken away by the gardaí as soon as he was admitted to the hospital, so they can conduct independent forensic analysis on them. She has not heard anything back in this regard. On 20 September 2005 an independent pathologist conducted a post-mortem on the body, they have not yet received that report. Branbury says that "there is not much point in engaging in correspondence so we are going to the High Court."
BULLYING THE RELATIVES
Also in the UK familes have stories to tell how they're humiliated and harassed by the same police force that killed their loved ones. Though compared to what the Weelock family had and still has to endure, most of these incidents seem rather pale.
As Larry tells, the harassment started immediately after Terence had received his injuries at Stroe Street St.: "Well I’m constantly taunted by the police. Now they don’t pull me in like they use to but I think that…I’d be no bother naming and shaming any Guard that pulls me at this stage, but they’re harassing my younger brother. My older brother while Terence was in hospital was coming home from the hospital and a Garda pulled him and they were slagging him; ‘how is your brother?’ and giving it all this [making gesture of a noose around the neck], saying how is Fuzzy (his nickname was Fuzzy) and he told them to ‘”F” off’ and he got two months in prisonfor that! Two days after this happened to Terence they arrested my younger brother who’s 16; they took his runners off, took his laces out, thrown his runners in the canal, brought him around to the lane then saying ‘Will you do it like we got your brother to do it?’; you know, all this sort of carry on…like, they’re constantly giving it all that to me [gesturing “up yours” with both hands], or else trying to indicate you know like, hanging [gesturing again]."
Larry was sent to jail for an 18-year-old bench warrant for non-payment of a fine, and futher was charged but spoken free of carrying a weapon -- a butter knife, as tourned out before court.
In May 2006, the guards even lauched a full scale attack on the family's home. Robert Wheelock, Terence's brother, was a witness:
"My youngest brother was handing out leaflets for the protest outside Store St Garda Station on the 3rd of June. He's been getting hassle all the time from the Garda. A Garda saw him handing out leaflets and told him to get out of the area - but it was right across from the family house [just off Summerhill Parade]. My brother said to the Garda "I'm delivering these leaflets", and then the Garda jumped on him. All of a sudden a rake of police cars arrived in. The Garda assaulted my mother, father, and my pregnant sister. They hit her in the stomach with a baton. She was up in the Rotunda Hospital all night, with pains in her side. I dont know how she is at the moment to tell you the truth."
"They didnt charge or arrest anyone: they just came in and bashed everyone up. Its unbelievable. Hundreds of people saw it happening: there were crowds outside on the street. They burst down the door of the house just from this little incident with the leafets. They just charged in: I have no idea why."
"It's the same police that were involved with Terence. Its the same ones that arrested Terence, the ones that struck their names off the custody records so they supposedly never arrested him. They're just hassling my brother way too much."
Thereafter, around the clock guards were stationed in front of their flat until they eventually couldn't take it no more and so were forced to move to another borough.
Gavin, another brother of Terence, was arrested on his way to a protest to commemorate his brother's deathin June, for having a half-finished placard which the Garda claimed could have been used as a weapon. He was held for the duration of the protest but was not charged.
The treatment of the Wheelock family by the Garda isn't a one-off case at all, but in contrary 'business as usual'. E.g. Pat Rossiter, the father of 14 year old Brian who died in police custody in 2002, claimed that he was victimised by the garda because of his highlighting of the case of the suspicious death of his son. The viciousness of the garda involved was shown when they arrested Rossiter and put him into the very same cell where his son had received the injuries which killed him. Rossiter thereafter was reported by the Garda, but eventually won the Public Order case against him and intends to sue the gardai for wrongful arrest.
'WHAT YOU WANT? - JUSTICE - WHEN YOU WANT IT? - NOW!'
Despite all the harassment and intimidation by the Garda, the Wheelocks managed to kick off a family campaign hitherto unseen in Ireland. They organised many protests in front of Store Street Garda Station and also of the irish parliament, being joined by monting numbers in the hundreds. Details on some of the protests can be found in the following indymedia.ie reports:
A film documentary of the march protest can be downloaded here: http://video.indymedia.org/en/2006/03/295.shtml
Recently the Wheelocks joined forces with the family of John "Johner" Maloney, another Garda victim. He was arrested in May 2003 but was found unconscious shortly after being released. He was in a car with a friend in Rathfarnam at around 8am on Sunday, May 4, 2003 when they were arrested for a drugs search. His friend was released from his cell at 9.35am without charge and was told Johnner was being held over because of an outstanding warrant for driving without insurance. At an inquest, the sergeant on duty said Maloney had been released shortly afterwards and walked out of the station “with a spring in his step”. However, he was seen stumbling and falling at a nearby estate at around 9.50am by a passer-by. An ambulance was called. He died in Tallaght Hospital on May 16 when the life-support machine was switched off. The family, after having tried to find out where the teenager had been all the weekend, only learned what had happened when a radio bulletin mentioned that a young man with a tattoo saying “Johner” had been taken unconscious to hospital.
His mother recalls: "He walks into a Garda station perfectly healthy. He leaves not soon afterwards, supposedly with a spring in his step, as the Gardai say. Ten minutes later he's found 90% brain dead, with bruising to the chest, hips, and legs, and the back of the neck. I just really need answers to this. I didnt even know initially that my son had been brought to Tallaght Hospital. I heard a snippet of a report on the radio and something in me just recognised it was my son. I got a phone call from one of his friends on the bank holiday Monday [May 5th '03], telling me that Johner had been in Rathfarnam Garda Station. So I rang up Rathfarnam Garda station and they said that they never had anyone in there by the name of John Moloney. I rang Terenure Garda station, they said the same thing. Crumlin, Dundrum, the same answer."
Like the Wheelocks, the Moloney family is also demanding an independent inquiry into the death of Johnner. Hardly surprising, they're also being intimidated by the Guarda. Amongst other things A parking ticket was placed on the family car when relatives went to visit his grave on Christmas Day in 2003. Also the family home has been raided for illegal fireworks.
Still, the families are determined not to give up unless a truly independent inquiry will reveal the truth about their dead. As Larry Wheelock puts it: "I mean we can’t put Terence to rest for two reasons. Terence’s brain is still in the city morgue—he hasn’t even been completely buried properly and plus, until we get answers we can’t put him to rest d’ya know what I mean. But as I say we’re in this for the long haul; we’re not going away, you know what I mean. We will get, I will get the answers for my brother—I promised him when he died that I’ll get the answers for and I will get the answers."
LONDON PROTEST MARCH THIS SAT 28th OCT
Many details of these incidents from Ireland are only too familiar for some UK family campaigns, many of the fighting since more than a decade.
Sat 28th will see the 8th London annual protest march against death in custody, in prisons and mental health institutions, organised by the United Families and Friends Campaign (UFFC).
Meet at Trafalgar Square, Central London • Assemble at 12.30pm. Nearest tube: Charing Cross. Silent Procession along Whitehall followed by Noisy Protest at Downing Street!
Last year's march was attended by a meager 150 persons, i.e. literally the relatives and personal friends of some of the victims.
So would be nice if this year some more people showed up ...
See also http://www.blackbritain.co.uk/news/details.aspx?i=2296