TWO SPANISH police officers have been suspended from duty for five days without pay for failing to prevent the suicide of Anthony Abbott, 36, who died within an hour of his arrest in his cell at Benidorm police station in October 2015.
Abbott had been arrested after police were called to the Palm Beach Hotel to deal with a violent argument between him and his partner Catherine Corless.
The father of two was taken into custody and left unsupervised in a cell for 18 minutes, whilst one police officer left his post unauthorised and another one failed to replace him. During these 18 minutes, Abbott used a blanket and bar to take his own life.
The Spanish National Police authorities’ decision to suspend the two officers from duty for five days without pay is the least severe of a range of disciplinary actions stipulated by law.
Spanish lawyer, María Ángeles Reyes Bernal, representing Catherine Corless has questioned the police version of events and the fact the examining magistrate in Benidorm was never told about the unsupervised minutes Abbott spent in the police cell.
”How can a detainee tear a blanket into pieces to hang himself in a police station?” asks Bernal, who is preparing to claim “significant” damages from the Spanish Interior Ministry.
Although the Spanish investigation into Abbott’s death was closed some time ago, the UK investigation remained open and on March 23 this year the coroner in Manchester concluded that Abbott had died from hanging.
His report also described the Benidorm Police Department’s failure to improve their installations as “negligence” and “an important factor.”
The coroner cited a report from the Spanish interior ministry, which referred to the suicide attempt of another detainee in a shared cell on March 26, 2014, using a strip of blanket – the same method Abbott employed.
The Interior Ministry report proposals included putting surveillance cameras in the seven cells at the station, upgrading the doors to avoid “strips of blankets being introduced,” installing buzzers in the cells and repairing the alarm system.
In 2015, a total of 324 government employees worked at the police station, but the report flagged the difficulty of monitoring the cells, which have a combined potential occupancy of 12 detainees.
After 17 months, the UK investigation concludes that there is no evidence to suggest that the Benidorm Police Department acted on any of the Interior Ministry’s recommendations.
The UK report on Antony Abbott’s death, which will be sent to the British Foreign Minister, Boris Johnson, demands that measures be adopted to guarantee the security of detainees.