Detectives from Northumbria Police have launched an investigation called “Operation Sanctuary” following information about a series of sexual assaults involving a number of men from a range of communities and female victims.
A dedicated team of specialist officers has been set up and, as part of the investigation, searches are being carried out on properties, predominantly in Newcastle, but also in other locations across the force area.
Eleven properties were searched this morning and eight people arrested (seven men and one woman) for conspiracy to rape.
Northumbria Police has offered its condolences to relatives of a 43-year-old man who died in police custody today.
The man, who has not been named, was arrested on warrant on Thursday at his home in Houghton.
He was taken into custody after failing to appear at Gateshead Magistrates' Court on Tuesday for possessing an offensive weapon, and was seen by police doctors during his time in custody, the force said.
Chief Superintendent Kay Blyth said:
We offer our sincere condolences to this man's family and friends at what is clearly a difficult time for them.
Any death in police custody irrespective of the circumstances must be immediately referred to the IPCC and we are working with them to fully assist with their investigation.
Deaths in police custody are fortunately relatively uncommon and there were no custody deaths in the Northumbria Police area last year.
A probe has been launched after a 43-year-old man died in police custody today.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission confirmed it is investigating the death at Washington Police Station in Northumbria in the early hours of this morning.
The man, who has not been named, had been arrested on a warrant on Thursday for failing to appear at court and was being held in police cells pending a court appearance, the IPCC said.
An IPCC spokesman added:
The available records indicate police officers requested the attendance of a police doctor in the evening on Friday 29 March and an ambulance was called at around 11:30 pm.
The man was taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead where he was pronounced dead at around 1am today.
His next of kin have been informed and a post-mortem will take place later this afternoon. IPCC family liaison managers will meet with the man's family at the earliest opportunity to explain our role and to update them on our investigation.