Family still fighting for answers after Toni Speck’s death in prison cell

Toni with her mum and dad on a family holiday

Toni with her mum and dad on a family holiday

First published in News York Press: Photograph of the Author Exclusive by , Crime reporter

THE heartbroken father of a York mum-of-one who died in police custody 17 months ago has himself died without ever knowing what happened to his daughter.

Toni Emma Speck, of Huntington, died last June, after being detained under the Mental Health Act. She was taken from Bootham to Fulford Road police station but died after collapsing in her cell.

An Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation followed and the 31-year-old’s family have fought for answers since.

Toni’s sisters Michaela Peters and Dawn Atkinson, of York, say their father, 67, died from a heart attack last Tuesday following complications with blood clots, and the last conversation he had with them was over his grief at not knowing what had happened leading up to Toni’s death.

The IPCC investigation finished more than six months ago but an inquest has not been held and the coroner has yet to release information requested by the family. The IPCC findings will not be released until after the inquest.

Dawn said: “If my dad had died on Tuesday and he had had all the answers we would not be as upset as we are today. We would still be grieving but we would not feel this level of anger.

“His biggest fear was he would not see the day when we knew what had happened to Toni.”

The family is contesting the pathologist’s preliminary cause of death and Mr Speck, of Burdyke Avenue, had hired a private investigator to look at the CCTV footage, medical report and samples that were taken and the full IPCC report given to the coroner.

The family solicitor has written to York coroner Donald Coverdale asking him to release this information so the specialist could do his own report but Dawn said he had not replied.

She said her dad had talked about Toni in the weeks leading up to his death, as he lay in hospital.

After his hospital treatment, Mr Speck appeared to be on the road to recovery and went for lunch with Dawn last Monday, but he died in his sleep that night. He had planned to lay fresh flowers on Toni’s grave the next day.

Dawn said it was “too late” for their dad but has asked the coroner to explain the lengthy delay for the inquest.

She said although Toni had a “troubled past” she was desperately trying to change her life and was succeeding for her daughter Caitlin.

Mr Coverdale told The Press: “I am liaising closely with the IPCC and with the solicitors retained by the family. Steps are currently being taken to make evidence available to the family’s solicitors so that they can complete their own inquiries before the inquest is held. This matter will require a full and detailed inquest and that is what will happen when the case is ready to proceed to a hearing. There have been no mistakes within my office.”

Dianna Bamforth, partner at Ardent Law working on behalf of the family, said Mr Coverdale had promised to last night send her documentation that would allow an independent pathologist to determine a cause of death.

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