A CRYMYCH man died after being restrained in custody in Haverfordwest police station, an inquest has been told.

The inquest into the death of Meirion James started on Monday, January 7, at County Hall, Haverfordwest, and is expected to take 15 days, with written and oral evidence from nearly 40 witnesses including police officers and health board staff.

HM Assistant Coroner Paul Bennett opened the hearing on Monday and swore in a jury of eight.

Mr Bennett told the inquest that 53 year-old Mr James had been diagnosed with manic-depression and had previously been admitted into hospital due to his mental health, but was prescribed medication (lithium) and had been predominantly stable since the mid-1990s.

The inquest heard that he was prescribed a different drug in the autumn of 2014, and told his sister he was feeling depressed and the new medication did not appear as effective.

Meirion James died on January 31, 2015 following restraint by officers at Haverfordwest Police Station, where he had been taken after calling the police to say he had assaulted his mother, the inquest was told.

The previous day he had been taken to Aberystwyth police station, then Bronglais hospital after a minor traffic collision where his Fiat Panda had collided with the rear of a Volvo A487 road at Llanrhystud, and was described as being aggressive at the scene.

An off-duty police officer arrived at the scene after witnessing Mr James driving in what he described as an ‘erratic and dangerous manner’ close behind him earlier.

In a statement read to the court, PC Eifion Lodwig said: “I genuinely believed that the Fiat was going to collide with me.”

A witness told the hearing that Mr James chased the Volvo driver around the cars after he took his keys from the Fiat following the collision, and the Volvo driver then took Mr James to the ground and held him there.

Officers found Mr James lying next to his car wheel, covered by a blanket, and only responding with ‘snarls and grunts’.

PC James Crabb initially intended to travel with Mr James in the ambulance but he had to be restrained with leg straps after he struggled and thrashed around.

In a written statement read to the hearing, PC Mike Boyt, stated: “He appeared to have lost all sense and was acting aggressively, pushing out at people in the ambulance. I was concerned because he was a large man and seemed very strong.”

His behaviour meant he was unable to be transported by the ambulance, and Mr James was taken to Aberystwyth police station in a police van, then taken to Bronglais where he was left in the care of doctors, where PC Boyt said he was told he was in a place of safety and was detained under the mental health act.

The inquest heard that Mr James was taken into custody at Haverfordwest police station following his arrest on January 31, where he was seen by a force medical examiner, who concluded that his mood appeared stable.

Later Mr James became unresponsive as attempts were made to restrain him using Pava spray, leg and hand restraints after he suddenly charged at an officer.

Attempts to resuscitate him continued as paramedics arrived and took him to Withybush hospital, but he was pronounced dead at 11.27am.

The inquest continues, and is expected to explore a wide range of issues, including the handing over of information to Bronglais hospital by officers, his treatment there and the decision to discharge him, his arrest and transport to Haverfordwest and risk assessment on arrival at the police station.

Other issues including his medical examination, restraint, officer training and emergency response are expected to be considered.