The restraint tactics used by police are under close examination following a third person dying after a Taser or pepper spray was applied by officers. According to Amnesty International, a non-governmental organisation, the number of people who have died in the last eight days has reaffirmed its concern that Tasers are potentially lethal.
It was first reported that 53-year-old Philip Hulmes was hit with a Taser after he refused to leave the terrace at his home in Over Hulton on Tuesday night. His daughter is understood to have called police after he locked himself inside with a knife and started stabbing himself. Greater Manchester officers say that they were threatened by the man when they arrived and decided to deploy a Taser.
A spokesman said that, after that, it was obvious Hulmes had suffered serious stab wounds in his stomach. He was taken to Royal Bolton hospital but died shortly after. The coroner was informed, and a probe into the incident has been launched by the department's professional standards branch, he added. Meanwhile, a postmortem of Hulmes has been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). On Wednesday, forensic teams arrived at Hulmes's home.
Neighbours are cited saying that they saw the flashing lights, police and ambulance in front of the house. Kenneth Brown said they were yelling through the front door, imploring him to open it. In the end, they had to break the door down, he added. Another neighbour, Christine Bellis, said that Hulmes lived alone and walked his dog regularly. He was a really nice bloke who kept to himself, she noted, adding that they think he had some heart trouble. Her husband, Raymond, commented that this is a tragedy and terrible for such a nice man.
Hulmes's passing comes as the IPCC continues its probes into two other deaths after the people had been restrained by Cumbria and Cheshire police. After being shocked with a Taser and showered with pepper spray, 27-year-old Dale Burns died last week when officers were called to his Cumbria flat. On Monday, 25-year-old Jacob Michael died after getting pepper sprayed during an arrest by 11 officers in Cheshire. Postmortems of the men's bodies have been inconclusive, and investigators are waiting for toxicology test results for more information.
Association of Chief Police Officers head of Tasers Simon Chesterman says use of the devices is carefully examined by the medical and scientific communities, as well as by the IPCC in cases where people have died from their use. They will be looking at the outcomes of these probes to see if they need to change their guidance to officers.
However, charity Inquest co-director Helen Shaw says police don't seem to have learnt anything from the cases where inquest juries have found evidence of excessive and unlawful use of force or complete neglect. It's vital that officers are reminded that they can't act with privilege while these inquests and investigations are waiting to be concluded.