A carer accused of the manslaughter of a suspected burglar during a citizen’s arrest has described his horror of the moment he realised the man was unresponsive.
Nathan Smith, 38, is accused of killing 43-year-old Craig Wiltshire, who suffered a cardiorespiratory arrest while pinned to the ground in the early hours of November 20 2019.
Smith told Bristol Crown Court today (January 21) that his suburb had been affected by a string of thefts from houses and cars in the middle of 2019.
Smith, who denies manslaughter, said neighbours had installed security cameras, because "everyone was worried and scared".
On November 20, 2019, Smith said he was alerted by the son of the man he cared for, who had seen a man on a bike trying car handles.
"I went out to see if I could see the man outside", he told the jury.
"I pulled him to the floor, I pulled him off the bike. I held him to the floor so he couldn’t escape", he continued.
"I was expecting the police to come and take him. The police station was at the end of the road, so I thought it would be a few minutes."
"Did you have any intention to cause any harm to this man?", asked defence counsel, David Hughes.
"No I did not", Smith replied.
The court heard both Smith’s citizen’s arrest and initial detention of Mr Wiltshire were considered lawful. The prosecution case is that when Mr Wiltshire said he could not breathe, Smith should have reduced pressure.
The jury has been told Mr Smith held Mr Wiltshire face-down on the floor for 12 minutes, nine minutes of which his knee was on the suspected thief’s back.
Craig Wiltshire died in hospital from catastrophic brain damage two weeks later.
Smith was asked why he had not released the pressure on Mr Wiltshire when restraining him.
"I was struggling to detain him because of his strength. A number of people came out. He reached for his pocket. He was trying to bite, pinch and spit at residents in the area", he told the court.
Police soon arrived and the first officer asked Smith to continue holding Mr Wiltshire. Soon afterwards, he became unresponsive.
"I couldn’t believe it," Smith told the court.
When asked by defence counsel Mr Hughes how he felt at this moment, he replied saying "Confused. I was sick. I couldn’t believe what had happened."
CCTV footage of the incident was played to the jury. In it, Mr Wiltshire could be heard screaming "I can’t breathe" and Smith can be heard swearing at his detainee.
"You’re punishing him on the floor", said prosecutor James Ward. Smith denied this, saying: "No I’m not."
Mr Ward asked: "The man had a cardiorespiratory arrest. What are you doing to him?"
Smith replied: "I’m detaining him?"
He later added: "I wanted him to feel I was more in control than I was."
When asked if he thought Mr Wiltshire deserved to be screaming, Smith replied "only one person can answer".
Mr Ward then said: "He's dead. Why’s he dead?"
"Multiple complications," replied Smith.
"Caused by a restraint that you engineered," said Mr Ward.
The trial continues on Monday.