Lifted like a rag doll and hurled into cell: Shocking video of police brutality... on 5ft 2in tall woman, 59, found asleep in car
By IAN GALLAGHER and CHRISTINE CHALLAND
UPDATED: 19:26 GMT, 5 September 2010
Captured on film, a burly police sergeant flings an innocent 5ft 2in woman on to a concrete floor, knocking her unconscious.
By the time the then 57-year-old market researcher Pamela Somerville comes round several minutes later, blood is streaming from a wound above her left eye.
Disorientated and bewildered, she manages to lift herself off the floor, but can only stagger around the room.
Nightmare: Pamela Somerville yesterday, left, and with a blood-spattered shirt and black eye after her ordeal
Blood forms in small pools at her feet. Then she presses an intercom and cries: ‘I’m hurt, please, please help me.’
The incident, in the sleepy Wiltshire market town of Melksham, will inevitably stoke debate about the deteriorating relationship between the public and the police following the death of newspaper vendor Ian Tomlinson, pushed to the ground by a police officer during last year’s G20 protests.
To watch the video click here
Unlike that case, however, the officer involved – 6ft 3in, powerfully built former soldier Mark Andrews – was brought before a court.
Earlier this summer, Sergeant Andrews, 37, was convicted of assaulting Ms Somerville on a July morning two years ago.
He had denied the charge, but was found guilty at Oxford Magistrates’ Court after a five-day trial. He will be sentenced on Tuesday when he faces up to six months in jail.
CCTV footage of the incident obtained by The Mail on Sunday also shows Andrews dragging a terrified Ms Somerville across the floor.
'Barbaric': Pamela Sommerville is dragged into a cell and then flung into a cell, spilling blood on the floor
It was, she says, the first time she had been inside a police station. Not having had ‘so much as a parking ticket before’ it was also her first encounter of any kind with the police.
‘I am just an ordinary, middle-aged, middle-class Miss Goody Two-Shoes. I had done absolutely nothing wrong,’ she said.
‘What happened to me was extraordinary, terrifying, and no one should ever be treated in the same way again, no matter what they are said to have done.
'It’s the kind of thing that might go on in a tin-pot dictatorship in Latin America, maybe, but not in rural Wiltshire.’
Police took Ms Somerville into custody after she spent the night asleep in her car in a rural lane. They say she was arrested because she refused to
provide a breath sample – something she strongly denies. Although she was later charged, the police dropped the case against her.
It should be stated that despite her harrowing experience, privately educated Ms Somerville, who has a degree in microbiology from Warwick University, is not consumed with hatred of the police.
‘There are good and bad apples everywhere,’ she offers magnanimously.
Pamela Somerville is brought into the police station for her first encounter with Sergeant Mark Andrews
Andrews moves from behind the desk and grabs Pamela by the arm
As Pamela shouts out in protest, Andrews drags her across the floor
Andrews appears to have Pamela in a strong hold, as another officer follows behind
Pamela has walked back from her cell and is grabbed by Andrews
One of the key prosecution witnesses, in fact, was a female officer, PC Rachel Webb, who witnessed what happened and made an immediate complaint. It is understood she has now been recommended for a commendation.
Ms Somerville, now 59, who lives with her partner, John, in the hamlet of North Colerne, Wiltshire, says she still suffers consequences from the assault.
She says she will need a cataract operation, the direct result of the trauma she suffered. ‘My vision is still affected, it’s as if I am looking through a cloud,’ she said. ‘And the whole of the left side of my face is now lower than the right, like a stroke victim.
‘The emotional and physical trauma of the past two years has not been easy to deal with. Had I been beaten up by a gang of thugs in a busy city centre, I think I would have been able to come to terms with being a victim a lot sooner.’
Ms Somerville’s story began on the evening of July 3, 2008. She arrived home from work as normal and, after dinner, became embroiled in an argument with a mobile phone company over a disputed bill. It left her ‘stressed’ and she told John that she was going to stay the night at her daughter’s house in London.
Pamela refuses to move in protest at not being told what is going on. Andrews puts her in an arm lock and she falls to the ground
Andrews drags Pamela across the floor of the station's custody suite
Andrews pushes her violently through the cell door, and she falls on her face on to the bare concrete
Andrews turns away as Pamela - circled - hits her head on the hard ground, knocking her unconscious and causing lasting damage
Pamela regains consciousness after her 'barbaric' treatment, and struggles to raise herself off the cell floor
At last, rubbing the wound above her left eye, which she says is still affecting her vision, she manages to stand upright
‘I just wanted to get in my car and drive. My car is a safe haven, somewhere where I listen to music and relax,’ she said.
She pulled over into a lay-by 150 yards from her house on a country lane and rang her daughter. During the course of a long conversation, she decided against making the lengthy drive to London.
Instead she wound down the windows, listened to a Van Morrison CD and rang some friends, eventually draining the phone’s battery.
At some point she fell asleep, and awoke at around 1.30am to find her car battery was also flat because she had left the heater on full blast.
Despite being so close to home, she decided to remain in the car until daylight because she didn’t want to leave her work computer and confidential documents inside.
‘It had been drilled into us at work never to let these things out of our sight,’ she said.
Ms Somerville readily admits that her decision to remain in the car overnight will be seen as odd, if not bizarre – but she is adamant she had neither been drinking nor was under the influence of drugs.
‘I appreciate it will seem strange, particularly for a woman of my age.
'But I can sleep on a washing line. Even though I wasn’t far from home I would have had to walk along a dark and pot-holed country lane.
'I thought it would be better to stay put.’ She said she had had a ‘minor’ argument with her partner, and admits: ‘I couldn’t go back because I didn’t want to lose face with John after storming out the way I did.’
Pamela is clearly in distress as blood starts coming from the wound, forming in small, scattered pools at her feet
Disoriented, Pamela sits on the simple bed in the cell, the padded matress behind her, and cries out for help through the intercom
After hearing Pamela's desperate pleas, Andrews appears again, striding over the blood on the floor to attend to his injured prisoner
Finally Andrews shows some sympathy, and crouches down beside Pamela, putting his gloved hand to her injured forehead
A doctor enters the cell and examines Pamela's injuries before the paramedics are called
She awoke at around 8.30am and, after getting out of the car, saw a female community police officer walking towards her.
‘I was delighted to see her,’ said Ms Somerville. ‘I asked her if she had some jump leads but she walked off as if to make a call.’ Within
minutes a patrol car pulled up alongside her Mercedes estate and two police officers, one male and one female, got out.
‘I asked if they had brought the jump leads but they simply said, “Shut up. We are the f****** police.” Then they pushed me on to the back of the car, pushed my arms up high behind my back and handcuffed me very roughly.
'I was astounded and assumed it was a case of mistaken identity. One of the officers was particularly aggressive and kept telling me to shut up when I asked what was happening.’
Wiltshire Police said yesterday that she was arrested for failing to provide a sample for a breath test after the officers suspected she was drunk in charge of a car.
Ms Somerville disputes this version of events, denies she had been drinking and insists she was never told why she was being arrested.
‘I would have been blissfully happy to do a breath test. It was akin to something out of an American detective show like Hawaii Five-0,’ she said.
‘I thought there might have been an incident in the area and they thought I was somehow involved. Either that or they thought I had drugs because I had been in the car all night and look young for my age. At this stage, I still thought that everything would be cleared up quickly.’
Ms Somerville admits she became angry and abusive when the two officers repeatedly refused to explain why they wanted to take her to a police station.
‘I came out with a few choice expletives when they kept telling me to shut up, and the male officer used the F-word again when I told him he was making a mistake.’
It was on arrival at Melksham police station, where cameras are installed in the custody suite and holding cells, that Ms Somerville first encountered Sgt Andrews.
CCTV footage shows Ms Somerville flanked by two officers as she stands handcuffed at the front desk at around 10.20am.
An edited version of the film was later used in evidence against Andrews. There is some sound, but only at the start, and the timings at the bottom of the screen appear to be out of sequence in places.
Before taking her to a cell, Andrews shouts from behind his desk: ‘Oh shut up. Listen to me. You are in my custody now and you will be quiet and you will listen. Do you understand?’
Ms Somerville admits shouting at the officer, but only because he would not explain why she had been arrested. She was then taken to a cell. ‘I was starting to become very frightened by then,’ she said.
Around an hour later, Ms Somerville was visited by a police doctor.
‘I was relieved to see him when he introduced himself because I thought he’d have more intelligence than the officers who’d been dealing with me,’ she said.
‘I told him, “Thank God, at last I can speak to someone with a brain and get this nightmare sorted out.”
'But when he started putting on a pair of disposable gloves and said he couldn’t tell me anything, I thought he was going to strip search me, so I walked past him and out of the cell.’
Ms Somerville, who is eight stone, encountered Andrews outside. She recalls ‘being lifted up under the arms like a doll by Sgt Andrews and thrown headfirst back into the cell’.
He then slammed the door shut and left her unconscious on the floor. ‘I still find it hard to watch the images of me staggering to my feet with blood pouring from a head wound because I can remember how terrified I was,’ she said. ‘I could have died.
‘It seems utterly barbaric that an innocent person could be treated in such a horrific and violent way and then left alone, the fact that someone may even have been watching the CCTV footage of me not moving on the floor.’
Later that morning, police eventually called paramedics who took Ms Somerville to the Royal United Hospital in Bath.
‘I can remember trying to explain to the paramedics that I didn’t understand why I was there,’ she said. ‘When they saw blood coming from my mouth, they put the sirens on and I was taken straight into A&E. I thought to myself, “This is it, Pam. You’re going to die.” I was still concussed.’
During the several hours she spent in hospital she was kept in handcuffs and accompanied by two police officers, despite protests from nurses.
‘The officers at the hospital wouldn’t let me call my partner, or anyone. I said it was my right and they replied that it might be like that on American TV programmes but not here.’
After the gash above her eyes was stitched and her head X-rayed, she was driven back to the police station.
‘My eye was still bleeding and one
of the officers told me off because he would have to clean the blood off the back seat of the car,’ she said.
Soon after returning, at 6.45pm, she was charged with failing to provide
a specimen of breath and released on bail. Officers told her she would have to take a taxi home but when she started vomiting outside the station, they called an ambulance and she was taken back to hospital.
Her partner John, who still thought she was staying at her daughter’s, was eventually told about her whereabouts by a community policeman, who told him she had been arrested and was injured.
‘John burst into tears when he saw me at the hospital covered in blood with my eye closed and swollen,’ Ms Somerville said.
‘I was so relieved to be free that even though the hospital wanted me to stay in and have a blood transfusion, I signed a disclaimer and told John to take me home.’
At his Wiltshire home yesterday, Sgt Andrews declined to comment. He sped off in a Honda Civic, the hood of his anorak pulled tightly around his face.
In a statement, Assistant Chief Constable Patrick Geenty said: ‘The court has heard from a number of witnesses in connection with an incident within the custody suite at Melksham police station two years ago which resulted in a 57-year-old woman sustaining an injury to her head.
‘We are very concerned when anyone is injured while in our custody and the court has decided that this injury was as a result of a criminal assault by Sgt Mark Andrews, a member of Wiltshire Police who was performing duty as a custody sergeant at the time.
‘We respect the decision of the court and the force has formally apologised to the injured lady for the assault she suffered while in our care.
'The incident was reported by another police officer within the custody centre who was concerned at what had taken place.
'The officer found herself in a very difficult situation created by her own supervisor but performed her duty to the highest standards in bringing this unacceptable incident to the attention of another supervisor.
‘As soon as the incident was brought to attention, the officer concerned was removed from public-facing duties and the incident was voluntarily referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission who decided they would be satisfied with a local investigation by the force itself.
'This investigation resulted in a file being sent to the CPS which led to the trial of Sgt Andrews.
‘The public have a right to expect that the police will always act with their safety and welfare as their first priority.
'This is especially so when in police custody and considerable effort and importance is placed on ensuring that processes, systems, training and staff attitude is directed towards facing up to that responsibility.
‘Some 16,000 people a year are dealt with in police custody centres in Wiltshire and the public will understand that this environment is a very difficult one with hostility, conflict, violence towards staff and unpredictability.
'That does not excuse any unacceptable or unlawful behaviour by police officers or staff but it is important to put this difficult job into context.
‘Since this incident two years ago, in excess of 30,000 people have been dealt with in custody centres in Wiltshire.
'During that time there have been no further serious assaults of this nature but there have been a total of 13 complaints of assault, none of which were substantiated following investigation.
'No matter how good our systems and training, it is impossible to give a 100 per cent assurance that acceptable guidelines will never, on occasion, be broken.’