Death of Ian Tomlinson

Death of Ian Tomlinson
Death of Ian Tomlinson
Ian Tomlinson remonstrates with police after being pushed to the ground, minutes before he died.
Date 1 April 2009 (2009-04-01)
Time c. 19:30 BST
Location Cornhill, City of London
First reporter Paul Lewis, The Guardian
Filmed by Christopher La Jaunie, an American investment fund manager
Suspect(s) PC Simon Harwood, Metropolitan police officer
Charges Summons issued against Harwood for manslaughter, May 2011
Awards Bevins Prize for outstanding investigative journalism for Paul Lewis, who was also named Reporter of the Year at the British Press Awards in March 2010.[1]
Footage American businessman's video obtained by The Guardian

Ian Tomlinson (7 February 1962 – 1 April 2009) was an English newspaper vendor who collapsed and died in the City of London after coming into contact with the police while on his way home from work during the 2009 G-20 summit protests. A first postmortem examination indicated he had suffered a heart attack and had died of natural causes.[2] His death became controversial a week later when The Guardian obtained video footage showing him being struck on the leg from behind by a police officer wielding a baton, then pushed to the ground by the same officer. The video appeared to show no provocation on Tomlinson's part—he was not a protester, and at the time he was struck was walking along with his hands in his pockets. He walked away after the incident, but collapsed and died moments later.[3]

After The Guardian published the video, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) began a criminal inquiry. Further postmortem examinations, conducted by different pathologists, indicated that Tomlinson had died from internal bleeding caused by blunt force trauma to the abdomen, in association with cirrhosis of the liver. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced in July 2010 that no charges would be brought against the officer, PC Simon Harwood, because the disagreement between the pathologists meant prosecutors could not demonstrate a clear causal link between the death and the alleged assault.[4] In May 2011 an inquest jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing, ruling that the push and baton strike had involved excessive and unreasonable force. As a result the CPS reviewed its decision, and Harwood was charged with manslaughter. He entered a plea of not guilty in October 2011; his trial is set to open at the Old Bailey in June 2012.[5]

Tomlinson's death sparked an intense debate in the UK about what appeared to be a deteriorating relationship between the police and the public; the degree to which the IPCC is independent of the police; and the role of citizens in monitoring police and government activity—so-called sousveillance. There was criticism of the news coverage too, the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, calling it "an orgy of cop bashing." The incident was compared to previous deaths involving either police contact or allegedly inadequate investigations, such as the deaths of Blair Peach (1979), Stephen Lawrence (1993), and Jean Charles de Menezes (2005), each of which acted as a watershed in the public's perception of policing.[6] In response to the concerns, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Denis O'Connor, published a 150-page report in November 2009 that aimed to restore Britain's traditional consent-based model of policing. The Guardian hailed it as a blueprint for wholesale reform.[7]



Ian Tomlinson

Tomlinson was born to Jim and Ann Tomlinson in Matlock, Derbyshire, moving to London when he was 17 to work as a scaffolder or roofer. At the time of his death, he was working casually as a vendor for the Evening Standard. Married twice with nine children, including stepchildren—five girls and four boys, aged 15 to 32 at the time of his death—he had a history of alcoholism, as a result of which he had been living apart from his second wife, Julia, for 13 years, and had experienced long periods of homelessness. He had been staying since October 2008 in the Lindsey Hotel, a shelter for the homeless on Lindsey Street, EC1. His friends told reporters he was a keen Millwall F.C. fan, and he can be seen on the day of his death wearing a blue Millwall shirt underneath a grey "Neil Harris all-time leading goal scorer" T-shirt.[8]

London police and IPCC

With over 33,000 officers, the Metropolitan Police Service (known as the MPS or the Met), headquartered at Scotland Yard, is the largest police force in the United Kingdom, responsible for policing Greater London, except for the financial district, the City of London. The latter has its own force, the City of London Police, the smallest in England and Wales. The Met's commissioner at the time of the incident was Sir Paul Stephenson; the City of London police commissioner was Mike Bowron. Responsibility for supervising the Met falls to the Metropolitan Police Authority, chaired by the Mayor of London.[9]

The officer seen pushing Tomlinson was a constable with the Met's Territorial Support Group (TSG or CO20), a unit of 720 officers identified by the "U" on their shoulder numbers. They specialize in public-disorder policing, wearing NATO-style helmets, flame-retardant overalls, stab vests, and balaclavas. Their operational commander at the time was Chief Superintendent Mick Johnson.[10] The TSG is the successor to the Special Patrol Group, known for its alleged involvement in the April 1979 death in London of a protester, Blair Peach, a death that commentators compared to Tomlinson's—trapped inside a police cordon, Peach was allegedly hit by an SPG officer, but no firm evidence ever emerged.[11]

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), created by the Police Reform Act 2002, began to operate on 1 April 2004. It replaced the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) following public dissatisfaction with the latter's relationship with the police. Unlike the PCA, the IPCC operates independently of the Home Office, which regulates the police, and although IPCC investigators are not police officers, they have been given the same powers. Its chair as of May 2011 is Nick Hardwick.[12]

Operation Glencoe

Riot police containing or "kettling" protesters at the Climate Camp on Bishopsgate, 1 April 2009.

The G20 security operation was codenamed "Operation Glencoe," a so-called "Benbow operation," which meant the Met, the City of London Police, and the British Transport Police worked under one Gold commander; in this case Bob Broadhurst of the Met.[13] The Guardian reported speculation among protesters that the operation had been named after the 1692 Glencoe massacre in the Scottish Highlands; a spokesman for the Met said before the protests that the police were "up for it," though the service said he had been quoted out of context. Protesters also escalated the rhetoric, saying they hoped to take control of central London, amid references to bankers being lynched.[14]

On 1 April, the police were dealing with six protests in the area: a security operation at ExCeL London; a Stop the War march; a Free Tibet protest outside the Chinese Embassy; a People & Planet protest; a Climate Camp protest; and a protest outside the Bank of England. Protesters ranged from peaceful environmentalists to violent anarchists, according to the police, who said that between 4,000 and 5,000 protesters were at the Climate Camp, and the same number at the Bank of England. Over 5,500 Metropolitan police officers were deployed on 1 April, and 2,800 on 2 April, at an estimated cost of £7.2 million ($11.3 million). Officers worked 14-hour shifts on average; according to a police focus group, they ended their shifts at midnight, were required to sleep on the floor of police stations, were not given a chance to eat, and had to be back on duty at 7 am. This was seen as having contributed to the difficulties they faced.[15]

The Bank of England protesters were held in place from 12.30 pm until 7.00 pm using a series of cordons, a process the police called "containment" and the media called "kettling," which consisted of corralling protesters into small spaces ("kettles"), then keeping them there until they want to disperse them; the "kettle" was used as a metaphor for keeping in the heat and steam. The procedure can make protesters agitated as they realize they are trapped; this in turn can make the police more aggressive.[16] At 7 pm, police began to disperse the protesters around the bank, and senior officers made a decision that "reasonable force" could be used. Between 7:10 and 7:40 pm, the crowd surged toward the police, missiles were thrown, and police responded by using their shields to push the crowd back. Scuffles broke out and arrests were made. This was the situation Tomlinson wandered into as he tried to make his way home.[17]


First encounter with police

1. Tomlinson left Bank-Monument station at 7 pm. 2. He was struck in Royal Exchange Passage around 7:20 pm. 3. He collapsed and died outside 77 Cornhill 7:25–7:30 pm.

Press reports indicate that Tomlinson did not take part in the G20 protests, but was walking across London's financial district in an effort to reach the Lindsey Hotel in Smithfield after finishing work. The route he took was apparently his normal way home from a newspaper stand on Fish Street Hill outside Monument tube station, where he worked with a friend, Barry Smith.[18]

Several newspapers published images of his first encounter with police that evening. Barry Smith says Tomlinson left the newspaper stand at around 7 pm[18] This image[19] published by the Daily Mail shows Tomlinson smoking a cigarette in front of a police van in Lombard Street. The Mail writes that an eyewitness, IT worker Ross Hardy, said Tomlinson was drunk and refusing to move; a police van tried to nudge him out of the way, and when that didn't work, he was moved by four riot officers. The Daily Mail published this image[20] of him apparently being pushed by the police.[21] On 16 April, The Guardian published three images[22] of Tomlinson, clearly taken at the same time as the Daily Mail images.[23]

After this first encounter with the police, Tomlinson stayed on Lombard Street for another half hour, then made his way to King William Street, toward two lines of police cordons, where police had "kettled" thousands of protesters in the area around the Bank of England. At 7:10 pm, Tomlinson doubled back on himself, walking up and down Change Alley where he encountered more cordons, and five minutes later was on Lombard Street again, crossed it, walked down Birchin Lane, and reached Cornhill at 7:10, according to The Times, or at 7:15 pm, according to The Daily Telegraph. A few minutes later, he was at the northern end of a pedestrian precinct commonly known as Royal Exchange Passage (formally called Royal Exchange Buildings) near the junction with Threadneedle Street, where a further police cordon stopped him from proceeding. He turned to walk south along Royal Exchange Passage instead, where minutes before he arrived, police officers had clashed with up to 25 protesters. Riot police from the Met's TSG, accompanied by City of London police dog handlers, had arrived there from the cordon in Threadneedle Street to help their colleagues.[24]

Encounter with officer in the video

7:20 pm. Tomlinson moments before he was struck[25]
On the left, a uniformed man. In the middle, a man with hands in his pockets, looking down. Behind him, a uniformed person wearing a helmet, the bottom of his face hidden. In his left hand, he is holding a black stick.
Just before he was hit, PC Simon Harwood behind him[26]
Tomlinson struck on the leg and pushed over.[26] The Guardian was criticized for having burned its logo into the original footage, increasing its brand-name recognition.[27]
Tomlinson (right) seen in a separate video. He walked 200 feet (60 m), then collapsed and died.[28]

Police officers are reported to have followed him as he walked 50 yards (50 m) along the street.[18] He tried to head towards Threadneedle Street, but again ran into police cordons. He doubled back on himself yet again towards Cornhill.[29] A CPS report released in July 2010 said Tomlinson was bitten on the leg by a police dog at 7:15 pm, when a dog handler tried to move him out of the way. He is reported not to have reacted to the bite.[30]

At 2 a.m. on 7 April, a week after the incident, The Guardian was passed footage shot by an investment fund manager from New York who was in London on business. The video shows a group of officers approach Tomlinson again—the same group of officers, according to The Times—outside a Montblanc store at the southern end of Royal Exchange Passage, near the junction with Cornhill.[31] The group included officers from the TSG in riot gear and City of London police dog handlers. Tomlinson was walking slowly with his hands in his pockets. An eyewitness, Alan Edwards, said Tomlinson was saying, "I want to go home. I live down there. I'm trying to get home."[32]

The footage shows one officer appear to lunge at Tomlinson from behind, then strike him across the legs with a baton the officer was holding in his left hand. The same officer then appears to push Tomlinson's back, causing him to fall. On 8 April, Channel 4 News released their own footage of the same scene from a different angle. Their video shows the officer's arm swing back fully to head height before bringing it downwards to hit Tomlinson on the legs with the baton.[33] A video obtained by The Guardian on 21 April shows Tomlinson standing by a bicycle rack when the police approach him, hands in his pockets, appearing to offer no resistance. After he is hit, he can be seen scraping along the ground on the right side of his forehead. Eyewitnesses spoke of hearing a noise as his head hit the ground.[34]


The Guardian video shows Tomlinson briefly remonstrating with police as he sat on the ground. None of the officers seen on the video tried to help him.[35] After being helped to his feet by Alan Edwards, a protester, Tomlinson walked 200 feet (60 m) along Cornhill, where he collapsed at around 7:25 pm outside 77 Cornhill. Witnesses say he appeared dazed, eyes rolling, skin grey. They also said he smelled of alcohol.[18]

An ITV News photographer tried to give medical aid, but was forced away by police, as was Lucy Apps, a third-year medical student.[36] Daniel McPhee, a social support worker, told The Daily Telegraph that he was one of the first on the scene, and that he dialled 999, the UK's emergency services number. At that point, Tomlinson was reportedly still breathing. The ambulance operator told McPhee to put Tomlinson on his back, McPhee says. Then a group of riot police surrounded Tomlinson. The operator asked to speak to the police, but McPhee says the police ignored the request.[37] Police medics then attended to Tomlinson, who was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital.[38]

Simon Harwood

The officer seen striking Tomlinson was a police constable with the Territorial Support Group (TSG) at Larkhall Lane police station in Lambeth, South London.[39] Before his identity was known, The Guardian alleged that he may have removed his shoulder number and covered the bottom of his face with his balaclava before hitting Tomlinson.[40] The Daily Mail published this image[41] showing the officer's shoulder ID was missing.[21] According to The Mail on Sunday, TSG officers have been known to swap shoulder IDs, then claim, if accused of wrongdoing, that their unit was elsewhere at the time and that it must be a case of mistaken identity.[39]

Simon Israel of Channel 4 News reported that there were a number of distinguishing marks that identified the officer in footage taken in several locations on the day. He had the code U41 on his helmet; he was apparently left-handed; he wore a balaclava but no gloves; he was not carrying a shield; and he was wearing his yellow jacket tucked in. The IPCC sought but failed to obtain an injunction to prevent Channel 4 broadcasting the description, alleging that it might prejudice their inquiry.[42] When announcing in July 2010 that no charges would be brought against the officer, the Crown Prosecution Service still referred to him only as PC A.[4] Newspapers named him that day as PC Simon Harwood.[43]

Harwood had faced two misconduct hearings in the late 1990s and in 2004. The first arose out of a road-rage incident while he was on sick leave with a shoulder injury, during which he reportedly tried to arrest the other driver, who complained that Harwood had used unnecessary force. Before the case was heard, Harwood retired from the Met on medical grounds and was awarded a pension. Three days later, he rejoined the Met as a civilian computer worker. Several years later, he applied to join the Surrey Police as an officer; Surrey Police say he was vetted and was frank about his history. During his time in Surrey, there was a complaint about his behaviour while on duty; it was investigated and found to be unsubstantiated. After working there for 18 months, he applied for a transfer back to the Met as a police officer, and was accepted in November 2004. It is not clear how thoroughly the Met vetted him at that point.[30]

During the inquest into Tomlinson's death in May 2011, the court heard that Harwood had been in several confrontations that day. On duty since 5 am, he had tried in the evening to arrest a man he saw writing "all cops are bastards" on the side of a police van, and the suspect's head struck the van door, triggering a response from the crowd that made Harwood believe things were getting out of control. He apparently said he had been hit on the head, had fallen over, lost his baton, and had been attacked by the crowd. He acknowledged during the inquest that this had not happened. Shortly after his attempted arrest of the graffiti man, The Guardian wrote that Harwood swung a coat at a protester, pulled a BBC cameraman to the ground, used a palm strike against a city worker, and at 7:19 pm pushed another man to the ground for allegedly threatening a police dog handler. It was seconds after this, in what Harwood told the inquest was a "split-second decision," that he struck Tomlinson on the thigh with his baton and pushed him to the ground. He said that it was a "very poor push," and he had been shocked that Tomlinson had fallen.[44]

Harwood made no mention of the incident in his notebook that day; he told the inquest he had forgotten about it.[44] He reportedly collapsed when he learned on 8 April, when The Guardian published the video, that the man he hit had died.[45] Harwood and three colleagues made themselves known to a manager and to the IPCC that day.[46]

Postmortem examinations

Four postmortem examinations were conducted in all, the first on 3 April 2009 at the request of the City of London coroner, Professor Paul Matthews. Matthews reportedly did not allow IPCC investigators to attend, and did not tell Tomlinson's family they had a legal right to attend or send a representative. He also allegedly failed to tell them where and when it was taking place. As a result of this and concerns about his appointment of Dr Freddy Patel as the pathologist, there was pressure for him to step down as the presiding coroner.[47] He handed the case over to Peter Thornton QC, who presided over the inquest.[48]

Freddy Patel

Matthews appointed Dr Mohmed Saeed Sulema "Freddy" Patel to conduct the first postmortem. At the time of Tomlinson's death, Patel was a member of the Home Office register of accredited forensic pathologists. He qualified as a doctor at the University of Zambia in 1974, and was registered to practise in the UK in 1988. From that year onwards, he conducted autopsies for the Home Office and the police.[49]

Patel's work had come under scrutiny several times before the Tomlinson case, and at the time of Tomlinson's death he is reported not to have had a contract with the police to conduct autopsies in cases of suspicious death[citation needed]. The Metropolitan Police had written to the Home Office in 2005 raising concerns about his work[citation needed]. It is not known why the coroner asked Patel to conduct the Tomlinson examination.[50] In 1999, he was reprimanded by the General Medical Council (GMC) for releasing medical details about Roger Sylvester, a man who had died in police custody; Patel told reporters that Sylvester was a crack cocaine user, something his family denied.[49] In 2002, the police dropped a criminal inquiry because Patel said the victim, Sally White, had died of a heart attack with no signs of violence, though she was reportedly found naked with bruising to her body, an injury to her head, and a bite mark on her thigh[citation needed]. Anthony Hardy, a mentally ill alcoholic who lived in the flat in which her body was found locked in a bedroom, later murdered two women and placed their body parts in bin bags[citation needed]. The police investigated Patel in relation to that postmortem, but the investigation was dropped[citation needed]. In response to the criticism, Patel said the GMC reprimand was a long time ago, and that his findings in the Sally White case had not been contested.[51]

Patel was suspended from the government's register of pathologists in July 2009, pending a GMC inquiry.[52] The GMC inquiry, which began in July 2010, concerned 26 charges related to autopsies in four other cases.[53] The first involved Maja Trajkovic, aged 21, found dead and partially clothed in bushes in West London in September 2002. Patel concluded she had died of opiate poisoning, but stood accused of having failed to take proper samples from her body to substantiate his conclusion. He then allegedly changed his mind and said the cause of death was asphyxia, with opiate poisoning a secondary cause.[53] A second case involved a five-year-old girl, who died after a fall in her north London home in September 2002. Patel was accused of having failed to spot signs of potential abuse on her body, and of having failed to check with the hospital about their investigation into her injuries. The child's body had to be exhumed for a second postmortem, and her mother was later convicted of cruelty in relation to the death. In two other cases, that of a four-week-old baby and a woman who suffered a haemorrhage, he was accused by the GMC of carrying out examinations in an irresponsible manner. In the case of the woman, he allegedly recorded the cause of death as coronary artery disease when it was later found to be intracerebral haemorrhage.[53] The hearings concluded in August 2010; Patel was suspended for three months for "deficient professional performance."[54] In May 2011 the General Medical Council said it was conducting an investigation into Patel's handling of the Tomlinson autopsy.[55]

First postmortem

Patel concluded on 3 April 2009 that Tomlinson had died of coronary artery disease. He also found blood in Tomlinson's abdomen. His report noted "intraabdominal fluid blood about 3l with small blood clot," which was interpreted by medical experts to mean that he had found three litres of blood in Tomlinson's abdomen; this would have been around 60 percent of Tomlinson's blood volume, a highly significant indicator of the cause of death, according to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). On 6 April 2010, Patel wrote in a report for the CPS that he had meant "intraabdominal fluid with blood about 3l with small blood clot" (emphasis added). He did not retain samples of the fluid for testing. This issue became pivotal in 2010 regarding the decision not to prosecute Harwood; see below.[4] John Scurr, a vascular surgeon at London's Lister Hospital told ITN in 2009 that, in the absence of a suspicion of assault, Patel might have concluded that the bleeding was from accidental injury inflicted during attempts to resuscitate Tomlinson, not unusual during cardiac massage.[56]

According to The Times in April 2009, the IPCC said the postmortem showed there were no bruises or scratches on Tomlinson's head and shoulders, but did not say whether there were injuries elsewhere on his body.[57] On 24 April 2009 Sky News obtained this image[58] of Tomlinson after he collapsed, which appears to show bruising on the right side of his forehead.[59]

Second postmortem

The IPCC removed the Tomlinson inquiry from the City of London police on 8 April, after publication of The Guardian video. An inquest opened on 9 April with Paul Matthews as the coroner, and a second postmortem, ordered jointly by the IPCC and Tomlinson's family, was carried out that day by Dr Nathaniel Cary, known for his work on high-profile cases.[60] He found that Tomlinson had died because of internal bleeding from blunt force trauma to the abdomen, in association with cirrhosis of the liver.[61] He concluded that Tomlinson had fallen on his elbow, which he said "impacted in the area of his liver causing an internal bleed which led to his death a few minutes later."[62]

Third and fourth postmortems

Because of the conflicting conclusions of the first two postmortem examinations, two more were conducted on 22 April jointly by Dr Kenneth Shorrock on behalf of the Metropolitan police, and Dr Ben Swift on behalf of Simon Harwood. Shorrock and Swift agreed with the results of the second postmortem. The Met's point of contact for Tomlinson's death, Detective Inspector Eddie Hall, told the pathologists before these final autopsies that Tomlinson had fallen to the ground in front of a police van earlier in the evening, though there was no evidence this had happened. The IPCC ruled in May 2011 that Hall had been reckless in making this claim, but had not intended to mislead (see below).[63]

How the story emerged

How the story emerged

1 April 2009: Tomlinson dies around 19:30.

1 April: At 23:36, the Met says protesters
attacked them while police fought to save him.

2 April: Newspapers lead with that angle.
City of London placed in charge of case.

3 April: Three constables say they saw
Tomlinson pushed by officer;
Met tells City of London police.

3 April: 1st autopsy: heart attack.

3 April: Guardian tells City of London police
it has pics of Tomlinson at feet of riot police.

4 April: City of London police say Tomlinson
died of natural causes.

5 April: Guardian publishes photos and
testimony that Tomlinson was hit by police.

5 April: IPCC says Guardian has upset
the family. Tells journalists there is
"nothing in the story."

6 April: IPCC confirms Tomlinson had
contact with police; appeals for witnesses.

7 April: Guardian publishes video showing
Tomlinson hit by officer.

8 April: IPCC removes police from inquiry.

9 April: IPCC suspends officer.
2nd autopsy: abdominal haemorrhage.
IPCC says no CCTV cameras near assault.

14 April: Evening Standard finds CCTV
cameras near the assault.

17 April: Officer questioned on suspicion
of manslaughter.

22 April: 3rd autopsy: abdominal haemorrhage.

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(1 April) First police statement

The Met initially assumed responsibility for the investigation and issued its first statement on 1 April at 23:36 pm, four hours after Tomlinson died. The statement was approved by the regional director for London of the IPCC.[64] It said that police had been alerted that a man had collapsed, and were attacked by "a number of missiles" as they tried to save his life, an allegation that later media reports said was inaccurate:

A member of the public went to a police officer on a cordon in Birchin Lane, junction with Cornhill to say that there was a man who had collapsed round the corner.

That officer sent two police medics through the cordon line and into St Michaels Alley where they found a man who had stopped breathing. They called for LAS support at about 1930.

The officers gave him an initial check and cleared his airway before moving him back behind the cordon line to a clear area outside the Royal Exchange Building where they gave him CPR.

The officers took the decision to move him as during this time a number of missiles—believed to be bottles—were being thrown at them.

LAS [London Ambulance Service] took the man to hospital where he was pronounced dead.[65]

According to Nick Davies in The Guardian, this statement was the result of an intense argument in the Met's press office, after an earlier draft had been rejected. He writes that both the Met and the IPCC say the statement represented the truth as they understood it at the time, and that there had been no allegation at that point that Tomlinson had come into contact with police. Davies asks why the IPCC were involved if they had not realized there had been police contact. The IPCC's guidelines say incidents should be referred to them where "persons have died or been seriously injured following some form of direct or indirect contact with the police and there is reason to believe that the contact may have caused or contributed to the death or serious injury." Davies alleges that senior sources within the Met said privately that the assault on Tomlinson was spotted as soon it happened by the police control room at Cobalt Street in south London, and that a chief inspector on the ground had also reported it. In response to Davies's story, the Met issued a statement saying they had checked with every chief inspector who had been part of Operation Glencoe, and that none of them had called in such a report.[66]

(2 April) Police, news, and eyewitness accounts

Image of a newspaper article. The headline reads, "Police pelted with bricks as they help dying man", and underneath "Heart attack victim found in alleyway. Riot officers clear out City Climate Camp. More arrests today at Stock Exchange."
The Evening Standard alleged on 2 April that police had battled to save a heart attack victim, but had been hindered by protesters.

On 2 April, the Met handed responsibility for the investigation to the City of London police; the officer in charge was Detective Superintendent Anthony Crampton.[67] In accordance with police briefings, the Evening Standard reported on 2 April that, "police were bombarded with bricks, bottles and planks of wood" as they tried to save Tomlinson, forced by a barrage of missiles to carry him to a safe location to give him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.[68]

Eyewitnesses said the story was inaccurate. They said it was protesters, not police, who provided the initial first aid and telephoned for medical help.[69] Witnesses said that one or two plastic bottles were thrown by people who were unaware of Tomlinson's situation, but other protesters told them to stop.[70] The Times wrote that an analysis of television footage and photographs showed just one bottle, probably plastic, being thrown.[18] Video taken by eyewitness Nabeela Zahir, published by The Guardian on 9 April, shows one protester shouting, "There is someone hurt here. Back the fuck up." Another voice in the crowd says, "There's someone hurt. Don't throw anything."[71]

(3 April) Constables report seeing the incident

External images
Three officers who first reported the incident, The Guardian, 9 May 2011.

The Guardian wrote in May 2011 that three Metropolitan police constables from the Hammersmith and Fulham police station—Nicholas Jackson, Andrew Moore, and Kerry Smith—told their supervisor, Inspector Wynne Jones, on 3 April that they had seen Tomlinson being struck with a baton and pushed over by a police officer. They were standing yards away at the time of the incident. Jackson told the inspector that he recognized the man from photographs in newspapers reporting the death; senior officers then contacted Moore and Smith, who had been standing next to Jackson at the time, and they confirmed that Tomlinson was the man they had seen being struck. Jackson, Moore, and Smith did not recognize Harwood, and according to the newspaper assumed he was with the City of London police. This was four days before The Guardian published the first video footage, in which the three officers can be seen (see link above left).[67]

According to The Guardian, the inspector passed this information at 4:15 pm on 3 April to Detective Inspector Eddie Hall, the Met's point of contact for Tomlinson's death. Hall said he passed it to the City of London police before the first autopsy was conducted that day by Freddy Patel, which The Guardian writes began at 5 pm. According to Detective Sergeant Chandler of the City of London police, he did not receive the information until after the autopsy, or while it was at an "advanced stage." Apparently neither Patel nor the IPCC were told about the three witnesses. Patel said that he was told only that the case was a "suspicious death," and the police had asked that he "rule out any assault or crush injuries associated with public order."[67]

The City of London police told Tomlinson's family before the first autopsy that he had died of a heart attack. When the family asked, after the autopsy, whether there had been marks on Tomlinson's body, they were told no; according to The Guardian, Detective Superintendent Anthony Crampton, who was leading the investigation, wrote in his log that he did not tell the family about a bruise and puncture marks on Tomlinson's leg to avoid causing "unnecessary stress or alarm." The City of London police issued a statement on 4 April: "A post-mortem examination found he died of natural causes. [He] suffered a sudden heart attack while on his way home from work."[72]

(5 April) The Observer publishes first photograph

External images
First photograph of Tomlinson on the ground next to riot police, The Observer, 5 April 2009.[73]

On 5 April The ObserverThe Guardian's sister newspaper—published the first photograph of Tomlinson lying on the ground next to riot police.[73] The statement did not mention the report from the three constables.[67] After it was published, Freddy Patel, who later said he did not see the photograph, was asked to return to the mortuary, where he made a note of bruising on Tomlinson's head that he had not seen when he first examined him.[67] Over the next few days, the IPCC told reporters that Tomlinson's family were not surprised he had had a heart attack. When journalists asked whether he had been in contact with police officers before his death, they were told the speculation would upset the family.[74]

(7–21 April) Four videos released

Guardian/American businessman video, 7 April
Tomlinson images

Guardian/American businessman
first video of the incident
published 7 April 2009

Channel 4/Ken McCallum
same scene from a different angle
published 8 April 2009

Nabeela Zahir
after Tomlinson collapsed
published 9 April 2009

Guardian Cornhill
his head hitting the ground
published 21 April 2009


Lombard Street
Tomlinson is moved on by police
Daily Mail 1 2

The Guardian 7:08 pm 7:10 pm
Tomlinson walks away


Eyewitness account
published 2 April 2009

Other footage

7:10 pm, Royal Exchange Passage,
shortly before the incident

7:15 pm, Royal Exchange Passage
published 15 April 2009

7:16 pm, Threadneedle Street
published 15 April 2009

Footage from CCTV
published 29 March 2011

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The first Guardian video[75] was shot on a digital camera by Christopher La Jaunie, an investment fund manager from New York who was visiting London on business and attended the protests out of curiosity. He initially asked not to be named, but his name was published during the inquest in May 2011. He failed to understand the significance of his footage at first. It was only after several days, on his way to Heathrow airport, that he realized the man he had filmed being assaulted was the same man reported as having died of a heart attack. At that point, at 2 am on 7 April, he passed his footage to The Guardian, which published it on its website that afternoon. The newspaper then passed a copy to the IPCC.[76] It was only after this that the IPCC opened a criminal inquiry.[67]

Channel 4/Ken McCallum video, 8 April

A second video[77] was published shortly after the Guardian's, this one taken by Ken McCallum, a cameraman for Channel 4 News. Shot from a different angle, the footage shows the officer who hit Tomlinson draw his left arm back fully to head height before bringing the baton down on Tomlinson's legs.[78] Alex Thomson, chief correspondent of Channel 4 News, who was present at the time, writes that McCallum was filming another incident, where three bankers appeared to be provoking the crowd. The Tomlinson incident was unfolding in the background, unseen by the journalists but recorded by the camera. Half an hour later, Thomson was doing a live broadcast when his camera was damaged. It took engineers several days to recover the tape, which is when they saw that Tomlinson's assault was on it. Channel 4 broadcast it on 8 April.[79]

Nabeela Zahir video, 9 April

On 9 April, The Guardian published footage[80] shot by Nabeela Zahir, a freelance journalist. The video shows the immediate aftermath of the incident, with Tomlinson on the ground, almost hidden by members of the public and the police. The police can be seen moving away at least one woman who tried to help him, and a man, Daniel McPhee, who was on the phone to the ambulance services. According to The Guardian, the footage shows that the Met's initial claim that there had been a barrage of missiles from protesters while police tried to save Tomlinson was inaccurate. Protesters can be heard calling for calm; one shouts "Don't throw anything." The newspaper writes that, 56 seconds into the video, three officers can be seen with their face masks pulled halfway up their faces.[81]

Guardian Cornhill video, 21 April

The Guardian secured a four-minute video[82] from an anonymous bystander who was filming on Cornhill between 7:10 and 7:30 pm, catching from a different angle the moments before Tomlinson was struck, as well as the moment his head hit the ground. The footage shows Tomlinson standing behind a bicycle rack in the middle of Royal Exchange Passage with his hands in his pockets, appearing to offer no resistance to a group of advancing police officers. When a police dog approaches him, he turns his back. At that point, he is hit on the legs and pushed by the TSG constable, and can be seen scraping along the ground on the right side of his forehead.[83] Eyewitnesses said they heard a noise as his head hit the ground. The IPCC sought an injunction against the broadcast of the video by Channel 4 News, but a judge rejected the application.[84] The footage is consistent with this image[85] of Tomlinson after he collapsed and was being attended to by police medics, obtained by Sky News on 24 April, which appears to show bruising on the right side of his forehead. Sources told Sky News that a head injury was recorded by the second and third pathologists, but was not thought to have been the cause of death.[86] On 10 April, The Times reported the IPCC as saying that no bruising or scratches to the head and shoulders had been found by the first pathologist, Freddy Patel.[87]

CCTV cameras

Nick Hardwick, chair of the IPCC, said on 9 April there were no CCTV images of the assault on Tomlinson because there were no CCTV cameras in the area.[88] On 14 April, the Evening Standard wrote that it had discovered at least six CCTV cameras in the area around the assault. After photographs of the cameras were published, the IPCC reversed its position and said its investigators were looking at footage recovered from cameras in Threadneedle Street near the corner of Royal Exchange Passage, where Tomlinson was assaulted.[89]

Early reaction and analysis

The death provoked a discussion within the UK and elsewhere about the nature of Britain's policing. David Gilbertson, a former assistant inspector who worked for the Home Office formulating policing policy, told The New York Times that the British police used to act with the sanction of the public, but tactics had changed after a series of violent assaults on officers in the 1990s. Now dressing in military-style uniforms, and equipped with anti-stab vests, extendable metal batons and clubs that turn into handcuffs, an entire generation of officers has come to regard the public as the enemy, the Times said. The incident prompted an examination of police relationships with the public, the media, and the IPCC.[90]

The Guardian, the police, the family, and the IPCC

The Guardian alleged that the IPCC and police appeared to mislead or obstruct initial inquiries by journalists. The announcement of Tomlinson's death was delayed by three hours, then confirmed in a statement that accused protesters of hampering police efforts to save his life, a claim that appears to have no factual basis and for which the police declined to name their source. Tomlinson's family were not told he had died until nine hours after his death.[91] The police and IPCC then tried to guide news coverage by telling journalists that his family had been concerned about his health and were not surprised to hear he had had a heart attack. Journalists who asked whether police had had any contact with Tomlinson before his death were asked not to speculate in case it upset the family, and direct contact with the family was refused. The police issued a statement on behalf of the family instead, which said, "The police are keeping us informed of any developments."[74]

The police did not tell the family that, on 3 April, The Guardian had obtained photographs of Tomlinson sitting on the ground surrounded by riot police. The next day, the results of the first postmortem were released, concluding that Tomlinson had died of natural causes. Reporters who approached the coroner directly were met with a refusal to comment. Police refused to say whether the postmortem had revealed any marks on Tomlinson's head or body from a baton blow. The Guardian published its image of Tomlinson sitting on the ground on Sunday, 5 April. That morning, Tomlinson's family attended the scene of his death, where they met Paul Lewis, a Guardian reporter; they wanted to know more and gave him their contact details. In August 2009, Tomlinson's wife said this meeting with Lewis was the first the family had heard about any police contact with Tomlinson before his death.[92] The family's police liaison officer later approached the newspaper to say he was "extremely unhappy" that Lewis had spoken to the family, and that the newspaper had to stay away from them for 48 hours. The IPCC separately accused the newspaper of "doorstepping the family at a time of grief," according to The Guardian. On the same day, the IPCC briefed journalists from other newspapers that there was nothing in the story that Tomlinson might have been assaulted by police before his death.[74] During this period, according to Tomlinson's family, they were prevented from seeing his body; they say they were first allowed to see him six days after his death.[92]

On 7 April, The Guardian published on its website the American investment banker's video, and later that evening handed evidence to an IPCC investigator and a City of London police officer who arrived at the newspaper's offices.[74] In a statement issued on 8 April, the IPCC said it had had no knowledge of the video until they heard it had been published on the Guardian website, at which point they requested and were given the footage.[93] The officers then requested the removal of the video from the website, arguing that it was jeopardizing their inquiry and was not helpful to the family. Nick Hardwick, chair of the IPCC, later said the IPCC had asked The Guardian to remove the video only because it would have been better had witnesses not seen it before being questioned. There was no attempt to hinder the newspaper's inquiries, he said.[88]

Criticism of news coverage

The extensive news coverage attracted criticism. Brendan O'Neill wrote in The First Post that it "crossed the line from journalism to snuff movie", featuring a "semi-pornographic hunt" for images of Tomlinson's last moments, designed to whip up outrage "against the dark forces who rule over us." He was also critical of The Guardian for having burned its logo into the original footage of the assault, increasing its brand-name recognition whenever the video was watched.[94] Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, called the coverage an "orgy of cop bashing". John Gaunt, who interviewed Johnson, said that a friend of his was an officer in the Met and that morale in the force was apparently at an all-time low.[95]

Criticism of the IPCC

The IPCC was criticized for having taken seven days from Tomlinson's death, and five days after hearing evidence that police may have been involved, formally to remove the City of London police from the investigation. Hardwick said that the IPCC had first obtained eyewitness allegations of Metropolitan police involvement in the death on 3 April. City of London police continued to be formally involved in the investigation until 8 April, the day after The Guardian published the New York investment manager's video. Hardwick defended the IPCC's actions, arguing that, because Tomlinson's death became the focus of a criminal inquiry, the IPCC had to be meticulous in the way it proceeded, which precluded them from acting as fast as journalists were able to.[88]

The organization had been criticized before the Tomlinson incident for not being responsive to public concerns. On 11 January 2008, the Police Action Law Group (PALG), over 100 lawyers who specialize in police complaints, resigned from the IPCC's advisory body, citing a failure to provide adequate oversight; a pattern of favouritism towards the police, with complaints being turned down despite strong evidence; indifference and rudeness towards complainants; delays stretching over several years in some cases; and key decisions being made by managers with little or no legal training or relevant experience. They wrote to Hardwick that there was "increasing dismay and disillusionment" at the "consistently poor quality of decision-making at all levels of the IPCC."[96] Hardwick responded to the criticism in a letter to The Guardian that some of the examples cited were the legacy left by the previous oversight body, the Police Complaints Authority, acknowledging that the IPCC did struggle shortly after it was set up in 2004 to cope with the number of cases it had inherited. He denied there was any pattern of favouritism toward the police and said the IPCC robustly defends its independence and impartiality.[97]

Metropolitan police response: Adapting to protest report

The Metropolitan Police commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, announced on 15 April 2009 that he had ordered a review of public order policing in London, to be led by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Denis O'Connor. O'Connor's 150-page report was published in two parts, the first in July 2009, the second in November that year. It was hailed by The Guardian as a blueprint for wholesale reform of British policing, and a return to a consent-based approach.[7]

O'Connor wrote that there had been a hardening of police attitudes in recent years, with officers now believing that proportionality meant reciprocity.[7] He wrote that the deployment of officers in riot gear had become a routine response to lawful protest, largely the result of an ignorance of the law and a lack of leadership from the Home Office and police chiefs; that officers are being trained to use their riot shields as weapons; and that forces across the country differ in their training, the equipment they have access to, and their understanding of the law. The failure to understand the relevant legislation was in part due to its complexity, the report said, with 90 amendments to the Public Order Act passed since 1986.[98]

The report recommended that the Home Secretary issue guidance to the 44 police forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to make sure they know how to facilitate peaceful protest; the creation of a set of national principles emphasizing the minimum use of force at all times; and an overhaul of the Association of Chief Police Officers to make it more accountable. O'Connor also recommended that the privacy and human rights concerns about Forward Intelligence Teams—surveillance units that film activists and retain their data—be taken seriously.[7] Regarding the display of officers' ID, O'Connor wrote that visible ID numbers—metal letters and numbers on shoulder epaulettes—are not required by law in England and Wales but are a matter for individual chief constables. The Met dress code does require these to be worn, correct, and visible at all times; the Operation Glencoe Gold Commander had stressed this during briefings, and the report said the overwhelming majority of officers did adhere to the dress code during the protests. The report recommended making the display of police ID a legal requirement, and in February 2010 the Met announced that 8,000 of its officers had been issued with embroidered epaulettes, as several had complained the numbers were falling off, rather than being removed deliberately.[99]

Legal aftermath and IPCC response

Decision not to prosecute, conflict between autopsies

On the first anniversary of Tomlinson's death, The Guardian published an open letter from several public figures, including academics, MEPs, trade unionists, and a Tomlinson family representative, asking the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to proceed with a prosecution or explain their position.[100] On 22 July 2010, Keir Starmer, director of the CPS, announced there would be no prosecution because of the medical disagreement between the three pathologists. Freddy Patel's conclusion about natural causes conflicted with the conclusions of Nathaniel Cary and Kenneth Shorrock, who found that the cause of death was internal bleeding caused by blunt force trauma to the abdomen, in association with cirrhosis of the liver. The CPS said the conflict made prosecution difficult, because Patel was the only pathologist to have seen Tomlinson's body intact, placing him in the best position to make a judgment, which meant his evidence would undermine that of the other two pathologists. The CPS described the disagreement between the pathologists as an irreconcilable conflict, and concluded it would therefore not be able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that there was a causal link between Tomlinson's death and the alleged assault. Starmer said there was enough evidence to charge the officer with assault, but there was a six-month deadline for that, which had expired.[4]

The area of conflict concerned Patel's finding of "intraabdominal fluid blood about 3l with small blood clot." According to Keir Starmer, this was interpreted by other medical experts to mean that Patel had found three litres of blood in Tomlinson's abdomen. Starmer said this would have been around 60 percent of Tomlinson's blood volume, a "highly significant indicator of the cause of death."[4]

A year later, on 6 April 2010, Patel introduced an ambiguity in a second report for the CPS, saying he had found "intraabdominal fluid with blood about 3l with small blood clot" (emphasis added).[4] The ambiguity had to be clarified, because the second and third pathologists had relied in part on Patel's original notes to form their views. Patel was interviewed twice by the CPS. According to Starmer, Patel told them "the total fluid was somewhat in excess of three litres but that it was mainly ascites (a substance which forms in a damaged liver), which had been stained with blood." Starmer said Patel had not retained or sampled the fluid to determine the proportion of blood in it. Patel said he had handled blood all his professional life and knew that this was not blood, but blood-stained ascites. Patel also said he had found no internal rupture that would have led to this degree of blood loss.[4]

Starmer said that several conclusions were drawn from discussions between Patel and the CPS: (a) because Patel had not retained or sampled the three litres of fluid, no firm conclusions could be drawn about the nature of it; (b) for Tomlinson's death to have resulted so quickly from blood loss, there would have to have been a significant internal rupture; (c) Patel found no such rupture; (d) the later postmortems also found no visible rupture; and (e) because Patel was the only person to have examined Tomlinson's intact body, he was in the best position to judge the nature of the fluid, and whether there was a rupture that could have caused it. This meant that Patel's evidence would significantly undermine the evidence of the second and third pathologists.[4]

Nathaniel Cary, the second pathologist, objected to the CPS's decision. Cary told The Guardian that the push caused a haemorrhage to Tomlinson's abdomen, and the haemorrhage caused him to collapse a minute or two later. Cary said Tomlinson was vulnerable to this because he had liver disease.[61] He told the newspaper the CPS had erred in dismissing a charge of actual bodily harm (ABH). In a letter to Tomlinson's family, the CPS described Tomlinson's injuries as "relatively minor," and therefore insufficient to support such a charge. But Cary told The Guardian: "I'm quite happy to challenge that. The injuries were not relatively minor. He sustained quite a large area of bruising. Such injuries are consistent with a baton strike, which could amount to ABH. It's extraordinary. If that's not ABH I would like to know what is."[101]


The inquest was opened and adjourned on 9 April 2009. The City of London coroner, Paul Matthews, expressed concern about whether he had appropriate expertise, and Peter Thornton QC, who specializes in protest law, took over the inquiry, which began on 28 March 2011 before a jury.[102]

The court heard on 18 April from Professor Kevin Channer, a cardiologist at Royal Hallamshire Hospital, who was asked to analyse electrocardiogram (ECG) data from the defibrillator paramedics had used on Tomlinson. He said the readings were inconsistent with an arrhythmic heart attack, but consistent with a death from internal bleeding. Pathologist Nat Carey concurred regarding the cause of death. He told the inquest: ""It doesn't matter how you look at this case, whether you look at the heart and the coronary arteries or heart, you look at the ECG traces and clinical status, you come to the same view. Mr Tomlinson did not die due to a so-called heart attack, or arrhythmic heart attack, due to coronary artery disease." Liver expert Dr. Graeme Alexander said that in his opinion Tomlinson died of internal bleeding as a result of trauma to the liver after the fall. He told the court that Tomlinson already suffered from serious liver disease, which would have made him susceptible to collapse from internal bleeding.[103]

PC Simon Harwood gave evidence over three days. On the third day, 6 April, he said that Tomlinson "just looked as if he was going to stay where he was forever and was almost inviting physical confrontation in terms of being moved on." He said he had not warned Tomlinson before he struck and pushed him, and had acted because Tomlinson was encroaching a police line, which amounted to a breach of the peace.[104] The court heard that Tomlinson's last words after collapsing were, "they got me, the fuckers got me"; he died moments later. On 3 May the jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing. They ruled that the officer in question—Harwood was not named in the decision for legal reasons—had used excessive and unreasonable force in hitting Tomlinson, and had acted "illegally, recklessly and dangerously."[105]

IPCC reports

In May 2011 the IPCC released three reports into Tomlinson's death, written between April 2010 and May 2011. The main report contained material revealed during the inquest. The third report detailed an allegation from Tomlinson's family that the police had offered misleading information to the pathologists before the third autopsy on 22 April 2009. The Met's point of contact for Tomlinson's death, Detective Inspector Eddie Hall, told the pathologists—Dr Kenneth Shorrock who was conducting the autopsy for the Met, and Dr Ben Swift who was acting on behalf of PC Simon Harwood—that Tomlinson had fallen to the ground in front of a police van earlier in the evening, though there was no evidence to support this. The IPCC ruled that Hall had been reckless in making this claim, but had not intended to mislead the pathologists.[63]

Manslaughter charge

Keir Starmer, director of the CPS, announced on 24 May 2011 that a summons for manslaughter had been issued against Harwood. He said the CPS had reviewed its decision not to prosecute because new medical evidence had emerged during the inquest, and because the various medical accounts, including that of the first pathologist, had been tested during questioning.[106] The criminal trial is scheduled to open at the Old Bailey on 13 June 2012; Harwood has pleaded not guilty.[5] Harwood is also expected to face internal police disciplinary proceedings for gross misconduct.[107]


The fallout from Tomlinson's death appears to have affected police responses to subsequent protests and demonstrations. During the 2010 student protest in London on 10 November 2010, London police deployed lower numbers of officers and did not use kettling tactics.[108] Fallout from Tomlinson's death was also cited as a possible factor in the police's initial cautious response to the 2011 England riots in August 2011.[109]


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  102. ^ Lewis, Paul. Ian Tomlinson death: senior judge appointed to oversee inquest, The Guardian, 10 November 2010.
  103. ^ Lewis, Paul. "Ian Tomlinson did not die of heart attack, specialist tells inquest", The Guardian, 18 April 2011.
  104. ^ "Ian Tomlinson was 'amost inviting physical confrontation' says G20 officer", The Daily Telegraph, 6 April 2011.
  105. ^ "G20 protests: Ian Tomlinson unlawfully killed by PC, inquest rules", The Daily Telegraph, 3 May 2011.
  106. ^ Statement from Keir Starmer, The Guardian, 24, May 2011.
  107. ^ Lewis, Paul. "Ian Tomlinson officer's hearing to take place in public", The Guardian, 4 May 2011.
  108. ^ Helm, Toby, Mark Townsend, and Anushka Asthana, "Britain braces for a winter of protest", The Observer, (reprinted in the Japan Times 20 November 2010, p. 14).
  109. ^ Associated Press, "Riot response raises reform questions", Japan Times, 19 August 2011, p. 5.

Further reading

Video of Tomlinson
Video taken nearby

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