The sister of a man who died in police custody has said her family wants “the truth”, as a public inquiry into his death is launched.
Sheku Bayoh, 31, died in May 2015 after he was restrained by officers responding to a call in Kirkcaldy, Fife.
His family say that race played a part in his death, and criticized the ensuing investigation into the officers’ conduct on the night of Mr Bayoh’s death.
A public inquiry into the circumstances of Mr Bayoh’s death started on Tuesday in Edinburgh, chaired by Lord Bracadale.
Kadi Johnson, Mr Bayoh’s sister, told Sky News: “This public inquiry we want the truth. We want the police to come and tell us why our brother died, why our brother wasn’t protected in their hands.
“We also ask the question, if he was a white man would he have been treated any different?”
The family’s lawyer, Mr Aamer Anwar said Sheku was “smeared” and “criminalised”.
Cuts, bruises, and a broken rib
Mr Bayoh, who worked for British Gas, was father to then four-month-old Isaac and Tyler, his three-year-old son by a previous partner.
In a statement released on behalf of Mr Bayoh’s family, lawyer Aamer Anwar said: “The Bayoh family have described Sheku as Scotland’s George Floydthe only difference they believe is that despite seven years of struggle, the Bayohs have never seen justice and are yet to hear the whole truth.”
Mr Anwar said Mr Bayoh “was face down on the ground in less than 50 seconds” and was restrained by up to seven officers as he was handcuffed.
He had ankle and leg restraints applied to him and soon died, he said.
“His body was covered with over 24 separate lacerations, cuts, bruises, and a broken rib,” Mr Anwar added.
It has been maintained that Mr Bayoh was empty-handed at the time of his arrest.
The public inquiry was announced in 2019 after it was confirmed there would be no criminal charges in the case.
Mr Bayoh’s family has accused police of racism, dishonesty, and incompetence.
‘Black Lives Matter will mean nothing’
At a news conference, Mr Anwar read a statement on behalf of the family. He said one of Mr Bayoh’s sisters, Kadi Johnson, has “no doubt that the way Sheku or her family has been treated by the justice system would not have happened if they were white”.
He continued: “Taking the knee and Black Lives Matter will mean nothing if Scotland fails to support justice for Sheku.
“We are always told that justice is colour-blind, but this inquiry must not be blind to the issue of colour.”
Arriving at the inquiry, chief constable of Police Scotland, Iain Livingstone, described today as “an important day” which “allows the facts to be established”.
Lord Bracadale has said the first day of hearings in the will focus on the person Mr Bayoh was and what he meant to those left behind.
Mr Anwar said the public inquiry will commence two years after the former Lord Advocate advised the Bayoh family that “not one police officer would face charges” for his death.
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In 2020 the death of George Floyd, 46, who died after being arrested by police outside a shop in Minneapolis, Minnesota, sparked Black Lives Matter protests across the world and international outrage.
Former police officer Derek Chauvin was jailed for 22-and-a-half years after a video showed him with his knee on the neck of Mr Floyd for more than nine minutes while arresting him.