“I will put him to sleep”: Bodybuilder police officer who helped restrain dad who later died in custody tells inquest he knee’d and punched him as he ‘had hold of my testicles’

A ‘bodybuilder’ police officer who helped restrain a dad who later died has told an inquest that he kneed and punched him as he ‘grabbed his testicles’ and ‘twisted his finger.’

Christian Bolger was one of three officers who began struggling with Andre Moura, 30, after his arrest outside his home in Oldham in July 2018.

Father-of-four Mr Moura was detained for a ‘breach of the peace’ after repeated 999 calls from his partner who had asked him to leave their home as he had been ‘taking drugs’, but claimed he had returned to the property and was trying to get inside.

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After being arrested and restrained he was placed naked in a police van, his clothes having come off during the struggle.

He was taken to Ashton police station in Tameside. However, a custody nurse who assessed him there said she couldn’t find a pulse. He was taken to hospital where he was declared at 1:30am in the early hours of July 7.

(Image: MEN Media)

On Tuesday and Wednesday Mr Bolger, one of the officers involved in the initial restraint of Mr Moura after his arrest, gave evidence at the inquest into Mr Moura’s death, being heard before a jury at South Manchester Coroner’s Court in Stockport.

He said after initially being ‘calm’ and ‘friendly’ when told he was being arrested Mr Moura ‘starts to resist’ and ‘starts to tense up and make a posture as if he’s starting to become aggressive. “Straight away I realised he wasn’t going to come quietly,” Mr Bolger said.

In footage from Mr Bolger’s body-worn camera played earlier in the inquest, he can be heard saying ‘Don’t resist. I will get hold of you and you will lose this fight.’ Mr Bolger said he made the comment as: “I thought if he’s going to start a fight I need to diffuse that situation.”

He said Mr Moura ‘slipped his arm and tried to run away and ‘that was when he started fighting with us.’ Mr Bolger said he then took Mr Moura down to the floor ‘with a reverse takedown.’ Beforehand Mr Bolger can be heard in the video saying “I will put him to sleep”.

Senior Coroner Alison Mutch
(Image: Manchester Evening News.)

Questioned by Senior Coroner Alison Mutch about his use of the phrase he said it was ‘just a phrase I would use if I was restraining someone’ adding it wasn’t a recognised police term but a martial arts one.. “Obviously I didn’t put him to sleep at any point, I just wanted him to comply,” he said.

Marc Willems KC, representing the family, said at six feet Mr Bolger was a ‘lot taller’ than Mr Moura, who was 5ft 9, and Mr Bolger replied ‘yes’ when asked if he was ‘still a bodybuilder.’ However, Mr Bolger said he understood Mr Moura to be around 19 stone in weight and that he was ‘a lot bigger than all of us.’

“It’s a technique I have used many times and never before has anyone gone to sleep or lost consciousness,” he said. “It was a technique to gain control of Mr Moura. Me being a bodybuilder and taller is irrelevant in this case.”

Asked by Mr Willems if he had intentionally put any pressure on Mr Moura’s s airway, Mr Bolger said ‘no’. Asked if he may have done so accidentally he said: “I can only say maybe to that. It’s a fair question, I don’t have the answer so maybe, but he never lost consciousness.”

Mr Bolge said he kneed Mr Moura ‘quite a few times’ at one point during the struggle but said he did so as Mr Moura ‘assaulted me’ by ‘grabbing me by the testicles’ and ‘not letting go.’

Asked by the coroner when his police training said ‘knee strikes’ could be used he said: “It’s taught in self-defence training. They are distraction strikes. We use them when it’s deemed necessary. If they are being aggressive towards us, it’s to stop them being aggressive.”

The inquest at South Manchester Coroner’s Court in Stockport is due to last around four weeks
(Image: MEN Media)

It was used a ‘shock tactic’ he added saying officers were advised to aim them at a person’s upper thigh. He said he believed the strikes made contact with Mr Moura’s upper thigh or it ‘could have been the side of his body.’

Asked if he ever punched Mr Moura he confirmed he did but said he did so as he ‘had hold of my finger and was twisting it causing me pain. So it was to stop him doing that.’ He disagreed with a suggestion by Mr Willems that he punched Mr Moura seven times saying: “There was only punch I recall.”

Asked what police training said about the use of punches he said: “I know we can use punches, I don’t know the exact wording.” Later adding: ‘There is no hard and fast rule on what you can and can’t do.’ Asked what he classed as ‘reasonable force’ he said: “Whatever is necessary to gain control of the subject and get them to comply.”

Asked if he thought his use of force was justified he said: “Yes absolutely.” Adding: “We could have used baton strikes, we could have used taser, we didn’t use any of those tactics.”

At one point during the footage, one of Mr Bolger’s colleagues can be heard saying ‘leave it, let’s just get him in the van.’ Asked what his colleague meant by that he said: “I don’t know you’ll have to ask whoever said that what they meant. Maybe they were trying to tell me to stop trying to get him in cuffs, I don’t know, I don’t recall.”

He said at least one of the sprays of CS gas aimed at Mr Moura by one of his colleagues during the struggle hit Mr Bolger in the face leaving his eyes ‘stinging and burning’ and causing him to cough.

Asked if he checked on Mr Moura’s welfare after helping to restrain him, and placing him outside the back of the police van, he said the other officers who arrived at the scene ‘took over to a degree.’

“I was suffering from CS gas so I was trying to look after myself at that point,” he said. “I had done what I needed to do, I helped with the arrest and got him to the back of the van. From there it was up to the other officers what they wanted to do.” Later adding: “ You have to look after yourself first before looking after anyone else.”

He said at no point during the incident did he suspect Mr Moura may have been suffering from acute behavioural disorder (ABD) or positional asphyxia after being taken through the signs and risk factors of both by the coroner.

The inquest has earlier been told one of the other officers involved in the arrest requested an ambulance through his police radio once Mr Moura had been placed in the van, though the request was cancelled just minutes later.

Asked if on reflection there was anything that could have been done differently Mr Bolger said: “Honestly, I don’t think there’s anything we could have done differently. Looking back at it…maybe when he was put in the back of the van, or maybe letting the ambulance come. Maybe that.”

Earlier in the day, concluding his evidence, PC Ashley Hudson said: “There are images on that body-worn footage which I didn’t see on the night but I have seen since and which will live with me for the rest of my life.”

However, he added: “On that night, we dealt with and made decisions, and I believe my colleagues made decisions, in good faith.”

The inquest, expected to last around four weeks, continues


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Manchester Evening News – Oldham