16 March 2023

Mother of Sheku Bayoh’s child heard of death on social media, inquiry hears

16 March 2023

Sheku Bayoh’s former partner, with whom he had a child, found out via social media that he had died, the inquiry into his death has heard.

The inquiry heard evidence from Chief Superintendent Nicola Shepherd on Thursday, who said she had become aware Mr Bayoh’s former partner heard about his death on social media, after hearing about the woman’s posts drawing attention to it.

Junior counsel to the inquiry Laura Thomson asked Ms Shepherd if the former partner, whose name was not given, had used social media to voice these concerns.

“That would certainly be my interpretation, yes,” Ms Shepherd said.

Mr Bayoh had a child with his former partner, whom he was intending to meet for contact on the day of his death, the inquiry heard.

Ms Shepherd was the divisional commander for Kirkcaldy and Glenrothes for Police Scotland at the time of Mr Bayoh’s death.

The inquiry has previously heard on several occasions how six of the officers involved with Mr Bayoh sat in the canteen at Kirkcaldy Police Station following the altercation prior to his death.

Ms Shepherd said, at the time, she had no concerns about this practice.

It did make my job that bit more difficult

Ms Thomson asked Ms Shepherd: “As a senior officer yourself, any concerns around the officers being together in that way?”

“At that point, no,” Ms Shepherd said.

She was then asked about visits made by police to Mr Bayoh’s family in the days following his death.

Ms Shepherd was not aware of a briefing that had been prepared to give to the family to inform Mr Bayoh’s family about his death.

She had no opportunity to read the briefing either, the inquiry heard.

The family raised several concerns about transparency surrounding Mr Bayoh’s death in what detectives described in their daybooks as a “confrontational atmosphere”.

Ms Thomson asked Ms Shepherd if she could elaborate on what the family’s concerns were.

“Not specifically,” she said.

She also said she would “not be able to say” what the perceived community tensions were.

Part of Ms Shepherd’s role following Mr Bayoh’s death was to liaise with local elected members, but she said she had felt “hamstrung” in doing this, due to what was a perceived lack of information coming from Police Scotland through the media which restricted what she was able to tell elected members, who told police they were not able to keep constituents informed.

“It did make my job that bit more difficult,” she said.

The inquiry also heard how lay advisers, who give Police Scotland advice on dealing with issues around equality and diversity, became involved with the case.

Ms Thomson asked: “Neither of the lay advisers appointed were black or African, did that concern you at all in terms of their lived experience and what they were able to bring to you in terms of advice and guidance?”

Ms Shepherd said: “It didn’t concern me, because they were coming in as independent lay advisers, and that’s, that was the role we were asking them to perform. The independence for me was the important part.”

The inquiry is seeking to establish the circumstances surrounding the death of Sheku Bayoh, who died in Kirkcaldy on May 3, 2015, after coming into contact with officers from Police Scotland.

The inquiry, taking place before Lord Bracadale in Edinburgh, continues.

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