Front line

Front line

Front line

First Published 01 May 2003

A year ago an inquest recorded a verdict of death by misadventure of former rough sleeper Kelly Pearson. Her mother, Jean Pearson, is still fighting for answers

I have more questions now than I had when Kelly died in November 1999. Right now, I am trying to get those questions answered by calling for a second inquest into her death, and I am suing the police for wrongful arrest and wrongful detention.

I have written to the campaigning organisation Inquest to see if it will back my case for a second inquest. If it doesn’t, I’ll go it alone.

My daughter Kelly was found dying in a backstreet in London on 10 November 1999. She was 30 and a recovering drug user with a history of street homelessness. Kelly was found after she had spent 94 hours held unlawfully in police custody on an out-of-date warrant.

I am trying to find out why the warrant was not cancelled, and why she died. The main issue is the role of the police, and the warrant. Kelly was released from prison in London on a deferred sentence on the understanding that she came home to Shipley to live with me.

But the police stopped her in Shipley. When the officers checked the police computer, they came across a warrant for her arrest that had been distributed by British transport police in London. Kelly was taken by prisoner escort services to London’s Belgravia police station. The next day she appeared before the magistrate and the details of her arrest were found to be incorrect.

They related to a previous offence that had already been dealt with, making both the warrant and her detention unlawful. Though the magistrate ordered her release, no arrangements were made for Kelly to be returned to Shipley. After four days in custody -while Kelly’s solicitor was trying to arrange for probation services, Yorkshire Police or British transport police to take responsibility for organising her return -Kelly had left court. She was found 24 hours later.

I am presenting the attorney general with new evidence, and I am going to question the evidence given at the inquest. The new evidence is a result of an investigation by probation services over the question of who gave Kelly a travel warrant for her to take a coach back to Shipley. The investigation comes up with three witness statements that I hadn’t come across before which confuse the issue. I think those statements contradict the evidence given in court.

I know there can’t be any other result than misadventure but I want a new inquest to append the verdict with negligence. I know it’s going to be difficult but at least I am trying.

The second part of my campaign is to sue the police for wrongful arrest and illegal detention.

At the moment this civil procedure looks like it is going to court, as the police have said they want to defend it. I will pay for the court case through legal aid. It could be two years before it comes to court unless they decided to settle.

Once the civil procedure of suing the police is over I can then take my case to the parliamentary ombudsman for a full enquiry into Kelly’s death.

This is the only way I can ask for an investigation that includes the negligence of all the organisations; the probation service, the doctors, the way she was treated when she was arrested, the fact she did not have a social worker when she was sent home to me on a deferred sentence. All of this contributed to a chain of events that led to my daughter’s death.

Only by looking at it as a whole as everything occurred can we see the total lack of communication, whether it was by accident or by design. We can then see the conflicting evidence and lack of care given to people like Kelly in custody.

It is just me doing this. I have had to write letters to the organisations that I feel neglected Kelly. It is not easy dealing with organisations like that. I am on my own here trying to find out what happened. I have had to learn about inquests and what evidence can and cannot be permitted, and how the parliamentary ombudsman works. I have been writing letters and reading books so I know what questions to ask.

All I want is to know what happened and I will carry on until I do know.

Interview by Melanie Delargy