NO BODY, no burial, no justice, no peace.” This was the cry from hundreds of demonstrators who marched through Birmingham to protest about the suspicious death of Kingsley Burrell, whose body has still not been buried almost 18 months after his death. The 29-year-old father of two died on March 30, 2011, just days after being arrested by West Midlands Police.
His family said he had dialled 999 asking for help after allegedly suffering intimidation from a gang while out with his five-year-old son. When officers found him they detained him under the Mental Health Act and he was later admitted to the Mary Seacole Mental Health Unit. He was soon transferred to Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where he was pronounced dead four days later. Burrell's family has said he has no history of mental health problems and alleged Burrell also had unexplained physical injuries when he died.
On July 18 this year, Burrell’s body was finally officially released, but his family members were then ordered by the coroner to delay his funeral arrangements for more weeks. They hope to bury him at the end of this month. Burrell’s sister Kadisha Brown-Burrell said during the two-mile march on Saturday (AUG 18): “The last 18 months of my life have been torture. I would not wish this on my worst enemy. My entire life is on hold until we find out what really happened to my brother.” Protesters held a one-minute’s silence outside a newsagent’s shop in Edgbaston, where Burrell dialled 999 for police help.
Burrell’s mother Janet Brown added: “I want to know how my son, a strong fit young man in his prime with no history of mental illness, was taken off the street, sectioned and then died within three days in custody. “The system has failed my son or he would be with us here today. It is now up to the NHS and West Midlands Police to provide us the family and community with answers.” The protest also included family members of Sean Rigg, Smiley Culture and Anthony Grainger, who died four-months-ago in Warrington after being shot by police.
The Birmingham march, which ended in Centenary Square off the city’s prestigious Broad Street, was organised by Birmingham Racial Attacks Monitoring Unit (BRAMU). Its founder and chair Maxie Hayles said: “This is one of the most important marches for justice seen in recent times. Kingsley’s death is a stain on the reputation of West Midlands Police and we need an urgent public inquiry to avoid further deterioration in police and community relations.”
Lee Jasper, race equality campaigner, added: “The case of Kingsley indicates there is something profoundly wrong at the heart of the West Midlands Police force.” The march, attended by more than 350 people, took place peacefully with only five police officers in attendance. The police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is still investigating Burrell's death.
West Midlands police has previously said it would not comment while investigations are ongoing. In a previous statement, Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust said: “Investigations into the circumstances surrounding the death of Kingsley Burrell are still ongoing by the Independent Police Complaints Commission and our trust, therefore it would be inappropriate to comment further. “However, our thoughts go out to his family and friends at this difficult time.”
Last year, during a similar march for justice in the city, campaigners called for a permanent memorial to remember the hundreds of people who have died in custody. They also renewed calls for a public enquiry into these deaths. March organisers have been urging people to sign an online petition to demand a full public inquiry into the deaths of Burrell, reggae singer Smiley Culture, who also died in March last year and many others.
Jasper said in 2011 that 10,000 names were needed for a petition to demand a public inquiry from the Government.