THE family of Toni Speck say they have been left devastated by the evidence they heard at her inquest.

A jury delivered a narrative verdict on Friday in the case of Ms Speck who died in police custody on June 2, 2011 after being detained under the Mental Health Act.

They decided that Ms Speck had died from serotonin syndrome - a rare brain condition, which led to her having a cardiac arrest.

During the three-week inquest the jury heard from expert witness Peter Burdett-Smith, a consultant in emergency medicine, that Ms Speck would have survived had she been taken to hospital by 4pm that day.

York Press:

Members of Toni Speck's family (from left): Michaela Peters (sister), Caitlin Speck-Flash (daughter) and Dawn Atkinson (sister)

Speaking on behalf of the family, Ms Speck's sister Dawn Atkinson said: "My sister was suffering a medical emergency and we have all been left devastated after hearing from the expert witness evidence that Toni's life could have been saved if she had been transported straight to the accident and emergency department at York District Hospital.

"No family should have to wait over four years before the death of a loved one is investigated, my father died before knowing what happened to his daughter."

The jury's narrative verdict summarised what happened to Ms Speck between her detention in Bootham at 2.50pm and her death being confirmed at York Hospital at 6.48pm.

It highlighted the role of North Yorkshire Police doctor Abdalin Sheik Mohomed, who visited Ms Speck's cell with custody sergeant Paul Armstrong at 5.34pm.

The verdict stated: "According to CCTV footage, his examination consisted of seven seconds observation with the hatch open, although in his evidence he stated that his examination took five to 10 minutes."

Jurors also had to answer 'yes', 'no' or 'can not say' to four questions.

Firstly, they were asked whether the actions or omissions of the detaining police officers, the custody sergeant and the custody nurse "more than minimally, negligibly or trivially contributed" to Ms Speck's death.

The jury unanimous answered 'yes' to this overall question.

They were then asked: "At the time of her detention in Bootham at about 14.50 should the detaining police officers have recognised that Toni Speck needed to be taken to Accident & Emergency for urgent medical care?"

By a majority verdict, they answered 'no' to that question regarding Sgt Donna Musgrove and PC Rob Milliner.

Question three stated: "At the time of her detention being authorised at 15:46 should the Custody Officer have recognised that Toni Speck needed to be taken to Accident & Emergency?"

The jury answered 'no' to that question regarding Sgt Armstrong by a majority verdict.

Finally, jurors were asked: "At 16:06 when the Custody Nurse entered cell M1 should she have recognised that Toni needed to be taken to an Accident and Emergency department?"

By a majority verdict, they answered 'yes' to that question regarding nurse Paula Wilson.

At the conclusion, York's acting senior coroner Jonathan Leach told the jury: "Thank you very much for your service over the last three weeks, for your attention, patience and hard work."

North Yorkshire Police's deputy chief constable Tim Madgwick said: “Our deepest sympathy goes to Ms Speck’s family at this very distressing time.

“Police officers are trained to deal with people in difficult circumstances on a day-to-day basis, but the situation on that day four years ago involving Ms Speck was extremely challenging.

“The inquest jury has made clear that the police officers who detained Ms Speck and admitted her to custody could not have been expected to diagnose her medical condition – one which would have been difficult even for a medical practitioner to diagnose."

Questions remain, say family

THERE are still more questions to be answered following the Toni Speck inquest, according to the family's solicitors.

Dianna Bamforth, partner at York firm Ardent Law, said she will speak with Ms Speck's relatives to consider their next move.

She said: "It's been four and a half years, which has been an awful long time and which has allowed us to gather evidence and think about what could be done next depending on the outcome.

"We will be meeting with the family to discuss that. 

"I suspect that there are further questions to be answered in respect to police and also in relation to Medacs and the nurse and the doctor."

Ms Bamforth added: "I don't think it would extend to criminal proceedings. I think the intention was to take Toni somewhere safe.

"I don't think the police would say this was the right place to take her."

Regarding Ms Speck's treatment in the hours before her death, Ms Bamford said: "I think they had a very blinkered approach. 
"They assessed Toni as mental health, they didn't look any further than that.

"Had they looked into it further and thought 'is there a physical problem', I believe they would have done it differently."