Family waits seven years for answers over the death of Leon Briggs after being taken into police custody in Bedfordshire

  • Watch a report by ITV News Anglia's Stuart Leithes

A family's seven year wait for answers over the death of Leon Briggs after being taken into police custody has started at an inquest in Milton Keynes.The 39-year-old father of two was detained at Luton police station in 2013. He was later found unconscious in his cell and taken to hospital where he died.

Opening the inquest in Milton Keynes, coroner Emma Whitting said no family should have to wait the length of time Leon Briggs' family has, to learn how their loved-one died.

It was in November 2013 that Leon Briggs collapsed after being restrained and taken into custody at Luton Police Station.

He has been detained under the Mental Health Act following reports that he was behaving unusually. He was later found unresponsive in his cell and taken by ambulance to hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The jury heard a written statement from Leon Briggs' mother Margaret about his death.She said it had devastated the family, that the last seven years had been a nightmare andthat she didn't think any of them would ever be able to get over it. She also said that the wait for an inquest had added to their pain.

Leon Briggs has been detained by Bedfordshire Police under the Mental Health Act following concerns about his behaviour Credit: ITV News Anglia

Mrs Briggs said her family was "devastated he was taken from us at such a young age and will not see his daughters grow up".

"The last seven years have been a real nightmare, and I don't think any of us will ever be able to get over it," she said.

"We have waited so long for some answers about what happened to him on the day he died, and the wait has added to our pain. We feel that there is still no end."

Mrs Briggs told the inquest that her son, from Luton, had lived with her at his sister Linda's house in the weeks leading up to his death instead of his home, after he seemed to suffer a "mental health breakdown" and believed his neighbours were trying to kill him.

She added: "In the months before Leon died he started to behave in a way that started to worry me... one night it was really bad, Leon made me call the police because (he thought) people were shining lasers at him... he was really sweaty and in a real state... he thought people were trying to kill him."

Linda Briggs, also giving evidence via a written statement, said in the days Mr Briggs lived with her he seemed to be going through a "downward spiral".The inquest heard that a post mortem examination concluded that Leon Briggs' deathwas caused by amphetamine intoxication in association with prone restraint and prolonged struggling. It also reported heart disease.

Flowers laid in tribute to Leon Briggs who died in police custody in November 2013 Credit: ITV News Anglia

The coroner told the court that officers attended a call over concerns about Mr Briggs "behaving unusually" at the junction between Marsh Road and Willow Way in Luton just after 2pm on November 4 2013.

She said officers "restrained and detained him" under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act - which allows police to remove a person of concern from a public place and hold them in a safe place.

Officers took Mr Briggs to a cell at Luton police station at around 2.25pm, where he became unresponsive. He was taken to Luton and Dunstable Hospital at around 3pm, and was pronounced dead at around 4.15pm.

In 2016 the Independent Police Complaints Commission referred the case to the CPS toconsider whether manslaughter charges should be brought against any officers - but no further action was taken.

In 2020 a gross misconduct hearing involving a number of officers didn't proceed because Bedfordshire Police said it would not present any evidence against them.

The inquest is due to hear from members of the police and ambulance service and is expected to last up to six weeks.