‘My brother is at rest but we need answers’ - Sister of Blackpool man who died during police arrest says family is ‘being kept in the dark’
The family of a man who died while being arrested in Blackpool said they have been left in the dark over his death after attending his funeral last week. Father-of-five Ronald Robinson, 56, was driving a hire car when he was stopped by police in Knowle Avenue, North Shore, in March.
The Independent Office for Public Conduct (IOPC), which is probing the death after being informed by Lancashire Police about the incident, said Ronald “became unwell” after being detained, with one officer claiming to see him “put a small ball-shaped item into his mouth before he was arrested”.
But, seven weeks after Ronald’s death at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, his loved ones said they still don’t have any more answers.
They have called in a lawyer in a bid for answers about the death of Ronald, a former tram driver who lived on the Prom, and said his body had scores of unexplained injuries.
Ronald’s sister Mandy Robinson said: “We are still being kept in the dark about everything that has happened and it makes both myself and our family really angry. We have just buried Ronald but we actually don’t know how he has died. We are all still left without any sort of closure whatsoever.
“Like we have said before, it is even more difficult not finding out any answers being so far away from Blackpool.”
Mandy, whose family lives in Luton, where Ronald hailed from, said her brother had been in rehab for drug addiction and been through a break-up – but was working to get his life back on track. He was also planning to move back to the south east.
“It’s a journey he will never be able to make now,” she said. “He had gone back up to Blackpool due to hospital appointments and he was going to come back but some of our family caught Covid in January so he was unable to.
“Then, finally, as he had started to sort final preparations out for a return to Luton he ends up dead.
“He had got back with his wife Kathryn as well.
“It’s just really tragic how it has all turned out and how it has been handled since he died. We feel very disrespected how we have not been kept updated with the investigation.”
Judy Robinson, Ronald’s sister-in-law, is a former firearms officer with the Metropolitan Police said seeing Ronald’s body before his funeral was “deeply traumatic”. She said: “My family and I went to visit our brother Ronald at the chapel and that was very difficult for us because it’s only been a year since we did the same thing for Ronald’s brother, Joseph.
“As you can imagine, it was a very anxious and overwhelming visit. Firstly, on viewing our Ronald we were taken aback of how dreadful he looked.
“After this initial shock we looked closer at Ronald and we were speechless after seeing the injuries he had sustained.
“He had cuts to his chin that needed stitches, skin missing off his forehead, cuts on his ears, and a large wound on the back of his head.
“He had gashes by his ears, his neck was black and blue, and skin was missing off his fingers.
“My question is, if he got out of a vehicle with his hands up and didn’t decamp, as we were initially told, then how on earth did he sustain all these injuries?
“As a family we are grieving for Ronald but we can’t move on because we don’t know the circumstances of his death and seeing those injuries has just added to our grief.”
Judy said Ronald’s mum, Veronica Robinson, 78, is asking questions about her son – which loved ones feel unable to answer honestly due to fears over her health.
She said she understands the investigation has to be carried out by the IOPC but is angry with how they have been treated by Lancashire Police.
Judy said: “Not only has she buried one son in the past year, now she has had to bury another one but in the most awful circumstances.
“We don’t want her seeing Ronald with these injuries. We are aware that things take time and there is protocol but the family feel angry, not only about the suspicious cause of Ronald’s death but also how we’ve been treated.
“We were given a family liaison officer but within a couple of days she had gone on holiday and again we were left in the dark and left every day not knowing anything.
“We are a grieving family and we feel we have been dealt with inappropriately.”
Jade Brown, a solicitor for Luton-based Taylor Rose MW, which is representing Ronald’s loved ones, said: “The family are devastated by Ronald’s death and they are concerned about how and why this happened.
“To date they have heard conflicting accounts about the circumstances of Ronald’s death, which has added to their distress and trauma.
“The family are particularly concerned about the restraint used by the officers during the road traffic stop and the medical care that was rendered or lack thereof.
“The family urge the IOPC to conduct a detailed, efficient and thorough investigation so they can get the answers they so desperately need.”
Christine Howarth, 69, of Knowle Avenue said she saw a police car and presumed somebody was being “told off for breaking lockdown rules”. She said: “I didn’t realise someone had died.”
Geoff Forshaw, 59, of nearby Argyll Road, added: “At first it was just the police and then more sirens coming. All of a sudden it was like something off the TV.
“We found out a man had died when police came to make their enquiries.”
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has been investigating Ronald’s death and, days after the incident, it appealed for witnesses.
It sent specialist investigators to the scene after being called in by Lancashire Police, with witnesses quizzed and evidence gathered.
A spokesman said: “We have received initial accounts from the officers involved in the man’s restraint. One of the officers reported that the man put a small ball-shaped item into his mouth before he was arrested. Officers are currently being treated as witnesses.”
The IOPC said last week: “Our independent investigation into circumstances surrounding the death of a man in Blackpool on March 11 is ongoing.
“We have spoken to a number of witnesses and obtained statements from the officers who were present.
“We will continue to keep family members and Lancashire Police updated as our investigation progresses.”
It added: “We have been in contact with family members to update them on the progress of our investigation and will continue to do so.
“Once we have fully considered all the evidence we will produce our final report, which will be shared with the family.”
Lancashire Police refused to comment.
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