31 Mar 2011

Tomlinson ‘not confrontational’ at G20 protests says witness

An American businessman who filmed the footage of Ian Tomlinson being pushed to the ground by a police officer has told an inquest Mr Tomlinson was “not confrontational at all”.

Chris La Jaunie, a portfolio manager who was visiting London on business, had gone to the area around the Bank of England to see what was happening during the G20 protests on the evening of 1 April 2009.

He described his attention being caught by Mr Tomlinson who was wandering close to a police line, in Royal Exchange Buildings, a pedestrianised area between Cornhill and Threadneedle Street.

“He was obviously trying to get through,” Mr La Jaunie told the inquest. “He wasn’t a protester, it looked to me as if he was trying to get somewhere. He was caught in the crowd and just wanted to get somewhere.”

Ian Tomlinson 'not confrontational' at the G20 protests hears inquest.

Mr La Jaunie started filming the events on a digital camera he had with him. He said he thought that from Mr Tomlinson’s hand gestures, it looked as though he was trying to explain to officers that he needed to get through the police line. After being refused, Mr Tomlinson turned his back to the police and started to walk away, he said.

Alison Hewitt, counsel to the inquest, asked Mr La Jaunie: “What was your view, if any, of his demeanour, and the nature of his movements as he turned to walk away?”

Mr La Jaunie replied: “So you are asking me if I thought he was intoxicated?”

Ms Hewitt said: “No, not particularly, how did he move away?”

Mr La Jaunie said: “He was not confrontational at all. He had his hands in his pockets, it was clear now he wasn’t to be able get through, so he turned his back to walk away.”

PC Harwood was sitting next to me and his reaction was, ‘My God, that’s me’ PC Alex Jackaman

Mr La Jaunie, who subsequently gave his footage to The Guardian newspaper, then described the moment Mr Tomlinson was pushed to the ground by Metropolitan Police riot officer, PC Simon Harwood.

“What I saw was once his back was turned, I mean a push is a very polite term, he was rather violently shoved.

“His hands were in his pockets, so when he flew forward he was unable to break his fall and so, if you see in the film, his head goes out of the frame, but I saw it, he hit the ground, his head hit the ground.”

The following day, Mr La Jaunie returned to the United States. As he was travelling back to Heathrow, his colleague told him someone had died at the demonstrations in the area he had been in.

“It seemed the only likely candidate could have been Mr Tomlinson,” Mr La Jaunie told the inquest. “Of course, I didn’t know it was him at the time so I started to try to get a physical description of the person who had died, and as more detail came out it became clear it was him.

“I basically contacted every reporter who had followed the story by email to say I have something that may be of interest to you, because at the time, as you know, the story that had come out was that he had just died of natural causes, completely unrelated to this.”

He added: “In my opinion, that footage was contradicting the story.”

When Mr La Jaunie’s footage was broadcast, it showed for the first time the extent of the contact between Mr Tomlinson and the police.

Mr Tomlinson died within an hour of being struck with a baton and being pushed to the ground. The inquest jury, sitting in central London, has already been told that the cause of Mr Tomlinson’s death is likely to be a controversial area. Dr Freddy Patel, the pathologist who originally examined Mr Tomlinson’s body, concluded his death was consistent with natural causes, although two other pathologists subsequently said it was due to internal bleeding as a result of blunt force trauma to the abdomen.

The inquest has heard that PC Harwood, who has admitted striking Mr Tomlinson with his baton and pushing him to the floor, was a designated police van driver on the day of the G20 protests in April 2009.

The jury today saw video footage of PC Harwood attempting to arrest a protester damaging his police van around ten minutes before the incident involving Mr Tomlinson. The footage shows PC Harwood dragging the male protester past a police van door, which opened, appearing to strike the man in the face. A large crowd then pursues PC Harwood up Cornhill.

PC Andrew Hayes, the driver of a police van parked next to PC Harwood’s vehicle, said PC Harwood became separated from his Territorial Support Group colleagues during the incident, and ended up with another police, unit in Royal Exchange Buildings.

When the two officers were writing up notes later that evening – recording incidents where they had used force – PC Hayes said PC Harwood made no mention to him of the incident involving Mr Tomlinson.

The inquest heard that when PC Harwood saw the footage of the incident, he exclaimed: “My God, that’s me.”

PC Alex Jackaman, another TSG driver, was sitting with PC Harwood at their base in Catford on April 8 when the footage appeared on a television in the corner of the room. He told the inquest: “PC Harwood was sitting next to me and his reaction was, ‘My God, that’s me’.

“I thought he was joking. I said something along the lines of ‘It couldn’t have been you. You were with me and Pc Hayes that day and we were nowhere near a dog unit’.

“He said ‘No, that’s me’ in a serious voice. The way he said it you could tell he was telling the truth. It was him.”

The inquest heard that it was believed at the time that an officer from Hackney had been identified as the one who pushed Mr Tomlinson.

The inquest continues.