Police did not tell a friend of Sheku Bayoh he had died during questioning in the immediate aftermath of his death, an inquiry has heard.
A former senior police officer told the Sheku Bayoh inquiry he believes the man “ought to have been told” about the death before he was subject to several hours of questioning at Kirkcaldy Police Station in Fife.
Retired assistant chief constable Ruaraidh Nicolson was giving evidence to the inquiry on Thursday when he heard that officers did not inform Martyn Dick his friend had died prior to questioning.
Mr Dick only learned of Mr Bayoh’s death after he left the station, the inquiry heard.
Asked if that caused him any concern, Mr Nicolson replied: “It causes me a lot of concern. He ought to have been told so that when he gives his statement he knows and understands exactly why he is giving a statement.”
Mr Bayoh, 31, a father-of-two, died after he was restrained on the ground by six police officers in Kirkcaldy on May 3, 2015.
The inquiry is investigating the circumstances of his death, how police dealt with the aftermath, the subsequent investigation and whether race was a factor.
Mr Nicolson, the most senior officer on duty on the day of the incident, also heard on Thursday that police then denied Mr Dick access to his home following his examination at the police station.
Senior counsel Angela Grahame KC said Mr Dick was not allowed to retrieve his car from the property to get to work, and she asked Mr Nicolson if he found this concerning.
“I do,” he replied, before asking: “Why would someone not just go and provide him with the keys to his car? I don’t know.”
Ms Grahame moved on to ask Mr Nicolson about the way in which officers searched another property belonging to the family of another man, Zahid Saeed, for clothing considered important during the investigation.
She said the family were denied a request to remain in the same room while the search was being carried out and one family member who was in a wheelchair was even barred from using the toilet.
Asked if this caused him concern, Mr Nicolson replied: “Of course. It’s fairly obvious we should be supporting the family in that situation.
“I can’t see any reason whatsoever [not to] have the family help you find the clothing and then leave them to get on with their day to day business.”
Earlier, during his evidence, Mr Nicolson said he was concerned to hear a statement read out by Ms Grahame from crime scene co-ordinator Stuart Houston which cast doubt over whether proper consent was obtained to search the family’s home in the first place.
The statement from Mr Houston said: “I have been told the occupier’s position is that no permission was given for the police to secure the property and that a complaint was made.
“I wasn’t aware of this. I would dispute that they said they didn’t give permission. If we didn’t have permission then we’d stay there until we had a warrant.”
Asked what he made of the statement, Mr Nicolson told the inquiry: “There is obviously a different view on whether permission was given or not.
“We should be quite clear that we’ve got consent and if we don’t have consent then we ought to get a warrant.
“There seems to be confusion in terms of Stuart’s understanding of what’s gone on.
“I suppose my question is: what was he actually co-ordinating at that stage? He obviously wasn’t co-ordinating the searches.”
In the afternoon, Mr Nicolson was also told the inquiry had heard a claim that a man, who it was suggested was a private detective, had spoken to a number of potential witnesses in the days after Mr Bayoh’s death.
Asked what he made of the claim, Mr Nicolson described the man’s actions as “wholly inappropriate” and said Police Scotland “ought to have taken action” to prevent him from talking to people.
Ms Grahame then told Mr Nicolson it was her understanding the man had been engaged by a lawyer representing “individual officers” and the Scottish Police Federation.
She suggested it may have been the case that the man was hired in anticipation of a fatal accident inquiry being arranged at some point in the future.
Ms Grahame went on to tell Mr Nicolson it had also been claimed that the same man had gone on to make “unflattering” remarks about Mr Bayoh to potential witnesses – alleged behaviour he described as “appalling”.
He said: “Why would anyone be making comments that are unflattering at that stage in this sensitive period? It’s beyond belief. It’s appalling.”
He added: “If these are witnesses that the Pirc (Police Investigations and Review Commissioner) or the police expect to give evidence and we’ve got someone going around and engaging them in whatever fashion – and which doesn’t sound like a very good fashion – then that ultimately may undermine the investigation.”
The inquiry, taking place before Lord Bracadale in Edinburgh, continues.