EXCLUSIVE: ‘Why would you taser a dementia sufferer in a wheelchair?’ Family condemn police over ‘appalling’ arrest of one-legged care home resident who died after being tasered, hit with a baton and pepper sprayed ‘when he threatened staff with knife’
- Police were called to a care home in St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, on June 21
- When the two officers arrived they found Donald Burgess, 93, holding a knife
- Cousin Shirley Fitch blasted police for using Taser on a ‘defenceless old man’
- Family say they were not informed of incident itself or his death afterwards
The family of a one-legged 93-year-old dementia sufferer who died after he was tasered in his care home have slammed the police.
Donald Burgess was pepper-sprayed, hit with a baton and tasered by officers who found him sitting in his wheelchair holding a butter knife.
Speaking exclusively to MailOnline, his cousin Shirley Fitch has blasted Sussex Police for using a Taser on a ‘defenceless, confused old man’ confined to a wheelchair.
She said: ‘We just can’t believe it. Why on earth would you taser a dementia sufferer sitting in a wheelchair? He couldn’t have done any harm to anyone.
‘He was just a poorly confused old man suffering from dementia. Why on earth would police have to use a Taser on him let alone a baton and pepper spray?
‘Apparently he was in his own room so he couldn’t have hurt anyone anyway and must have been very, very confused.’
Mrs Fitch, who is married to David, said: ‘We’re just shocked and appalled by this. It is just the most awful thing.’
Two officers were called to a care home in June after reports that an elderly man was threatening staff with a knife.
Donald Burgess (pictured), 93, was Tasered, hit with a baton and pepper-sprayed by police at his care home
After disarming Mr Burgess, who had advanced dementia, the officers then handcuffed, arrested him and drove him to the police station.
However, on arrival his condition was judged to be serious and he was immediately transferred to hospital where he died three weeks later on July 13.
Sussex Police voluntarily referred itself to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) which has launched an enquiry into the incident which happened at Park Beck care home in St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex.
Neither officer has been suspended for their action though they are on restricted duties, in roles that are not public facing with their suspension status kept under review.
Mr Fitch added: ‘I can’t believe they’re still on duty. That’s incredible. Why haven’t they been suspended?’
The family say they were neither informed of the incident itself or his death afterwards.
Mrs Fitch, 84, of St Leonards-on-Sea, said: ‘We only found out about this dreadful, dreadful thing from watching the news on television.
‘We were sat there watching thinking how terrible it was and then heard his name. My husband turned to me and said: “Isn’t that your Don?” I was just horrified and shocked.’
The two officers – both police constables from Sussex Police – have been told they are under criminal investigation for manslaughter and have also been handed gross misconduct notices.
The IOPC said initial steps carried out in the investigation include taking witness statements and reviewing the officers’ body worn video footage.
Sussex Police voluntarily referred itself to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) which has launched an enquiry into the incident which happened at Park Beck care home (above) in St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex
They also attended the post-mortem on July 21 and await the findings of further cardio-pathology examinations as the cause of Mr Burgess’ death is not yet known.
Neighbours at his former home in Battle, East Sussex, are also ‘stunned and shocked’ by his tragic death.
One neighbour, who did not wish to be named, said: ‘Oh what a tragedy. He was a lovely, sociable man. He and his wife, Ethel, lived here for years and they were a lovely couple.
‘Ethel got cancer and the last time she went into a hospice I promised her I’d look after her Don. This is so upsetting. I can’t believe it. How terrible.’
She said Mr Burgess, a retired carpenter, had suffered from diabetes for some time and had to have his leg amputated as a result.
‘After Ethel died he had his own carers,’ the neighbour added. ‘But after he had his leg amputated he only came back for one night before he had to go into a care home.’
Another neighbour said: ‘He must have developed dementia after he went into the care home because he was always fine when he was here. We liked him. He was a friendly old guy. I think the death of his wife hit him very hard.’
Another resident said the couple were childless and had to rely on carers in their later years.
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