Shine A Light

Coroner finds Capita detainee died of natural causes at Manchester immigration lock-up

Tahir Mehmood’s family stunned by poor quality of medical care when detainee complained of chest pains.

Rhetta Moran Kath Grant
16 January 2015

Tahir Mehmood, age 43

Tahir Mehmood, a 43-year-old chef from Pakistan who had overstayed his visa, was detained at a government holding facility at Manchester Airport on 20 July 2013. Six days later he was dead.

On Wednesday, after a five day inquest at Manchester Town Hall, Coroner Nigel Meadows concluded that Mehmood had died of natural causes at Pennine House, a short-term holding centre run by Tascor, part of the Capita outsourcing company.

The Coroner said that a nurse employed by Tascor Medical Services could have questioned Mehmood more about his symptoms and medical history, and could have kept contemporaneous records. But he did not find that there had been neglect.

Nigel Meadows added that he did not think there had been an unwarranted delay in bringing a defibrillator to Tahir Mehmood’s room. He was satisfied that there had been no breach of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to life).

The Coroner was told that the Home Office had already responded to recommendations in a report by the Prisons and Probation Ombudman, who investigated the circumstances of Mehmood’s death. Responding to a query from Rhetta Moran, of RAPAR, a Manchester-based human rights group, Meadows said he could see no reason why the Home Office should not publicise this response.

The Home Office had asked Dr Salim Meghjee, a consultant in general medicine and respiratory medicine who attends Wakefield Prison, to produce a report into the circumstances surrounding Mehmood's death. Dr Meghjee told the inquest he had made some recommendations regarding the keeping of medical records and better access to a GP. 

Since procedures at Pennine House have already been changed, the Coroner said, he did not consider it appropriate to produce a ‘Report to Prevent Future Deaths’. (A Coroner is obliged to produce such a report if it appears there is a risk of other deaths occurring in similar circumstances). 

Bereaved family

After the verdict, Mehmood’s brother-in-law Naeem Iqbal Gondal said: “Justice has not been done. We don’t think Tahir was treated right at Pennine House and we don’t believe details in my brother’s first statement, which he gave to the police on the day of Tahir’s death, really came out at the inquest." He went on:

“When Tahir phoned my brother from Pennine House, he asked him to speak to the nurse and explain to her what he was saying because he couldn’t speak English. My brother spoke to the nurse for eight minutes, he told her that Tahir was saying he had a pain in his shoulder and his blood pressure was low and he was struggling to breathe. He told the nurse Tahir needed to see a doctor but she just gave him paracetemol and sent him back to his room.

We don’t think Tahir was taken care of properly when he was ill and we have received no apologies from Pennine House or from the nurse who treated him.”

Cheryl Haines, another family member, added:

“We feel sorry for other people who are in there. It seems to us, from our experience of what happened to Tahir at Pennine House, that detainees are treated differently from people outside detention. It is frightening. People in detention have their human rights just the same as anyone else and we don't feel Tahir was looked after as he should have been. We know we can’t bring him back but we don’t want this to happen to anyone else or for their families go through what we have been through.”

Tahir Mehmood’s family said they were also upset about the Home Office decision, upheld by a judge at the Immigration Tribunal, to deny Tahir’s wife Misbah entry into the UK. She had wanted to attend the inquest.

Family members said they bought an air ticket to Pakistan for Tahir  Mehmood (who had been in the UK since 2007 but had overstayed his work visa) to leave the UK on 28 July 28, 2013. Instead they found themselves having to impart the news of his death to his wife and children.

Swift action improves survival chances

On the final day of the Inquest, Home Office pathologist Dr Charles Wilson testified that Mehmood died from heart failure due to atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries).

The Coroner also heard from Dr Raphael Perry, a consultant cardiologist and specialist in interventionist cardiology who is based at a Liverpool hospital.

Dr Perry said Mehmood’s blood pressure reading of 82/44 — recorded when he went to the medical room to see Nurse Yvonne Armriding on the day he died – would have almost certainly led to further action or referral to a doctor if it had happened in a GP surgery or hospital.

He said that pains in Mehmood’s arm could have been attributed to other causes but the low blood pressure reading would “make you think it was strange”. It was “pretty low blood pressure”, he said.

Dr Perry said that the earlier such a problem could be identified, the better the chances of survival. An ECG (electrocardiogram) taken early on might have helped identify Mehmood’s condition.

Once someone collapsed, there was only a “short window” to take action, said Dr Perry. The sooner shocks could be administered with a defibrillator, the better. Survival rates were much higher in hospital, where equipment was available, than in the community — although administration of chest compressions and the use of a defibrillator in the first three to five minutes could improve the chances of survival.

Government delay

AVID (Association of Visitors to Immigration Detention) has called on the Home Office to publish rules governing short term holding facilities such as Pennine House.

Ali McGinley, Director of AVID, says:

“During the House of Lords debates about the Immigration Bill 2014 (now Immigration Act 2014), Lord Avebury proposed an amendment to the Bill, calling for the short term holding facility rules to be published and citing a briefing we had done on the issues and gaps.

The response from the Home Office, in Parliament, was to agree that they were needed and to say they would be published before the ‘summer recess’. They did not meet this timeframe.”

AVID has asked about the publication of the rules since this deadline was missed and was told that “resources” had prevented them from being published.

RAPAR supports AVID and others in their demand for these rules to be published.

For more information, please contact Kath Grant 07758386208 or Rhetta Moran 07776264646

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