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Northumbria Police has confirmed the incident has been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission due to the contact between officers and the man before he died.
The air ambulance was called and the man was given CPR treatment by officers until paramedics arrived. Despite efforts to save him, he was pronounced dead at the scene. The area around the cliffs has been cordoned off while an investigation is carried out.
The police watchdog has been informed after a man was found dead at the bottom of cliffs moments after escaping from a police vehicle.
Northumbria Police said the man's body was discovered at the bottom of Marsden Grotto cliffs in South Shields just after 1am.
The force had been called to the area at 12.34am after receiving a report of a group of people fighting in the car park of the Marsden Grotto pub.
They attended and arrested a man in connection with the fight and he was placed inside a police vehicle.