Police can’t rule out that a man who died having suffered traumatic head injuries following a fall from a staircase in Manchester city centre was pushed, an inquest heard. Cops failed to obtain what could have proven vital CCTV evidence following the death of young dad Luke Riley, a coroner was told.
The 20-year-old, from Stockport, was found dead on the morning of September 24 last year off Deansgate – between the Wren’s estate agents and the railway bridge. Senior coroner Nigel Meadows has now pledged to write to the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police after concerns were raised by Mr Riley’s family that it took more than 30 days for officers to contact the council to check CCTV footage.
By the time they did, it had been overwritten, the court heard. Mr Meadows said opportunities to preserve evidence that may have given a clearer picture of how Luke died were ‘not taken’.
It was admitted that cameras ‘could have shown’ Luke’s movements that night, but they could not be seen. This was of particular concern to his parents, Duncan Riley and Mandy McDonald, who were highly critical of police.
“You can’t rule out that he [Luke] was pushed by somebody,” Mr Riley said to Detective Inspector Andrew Worthington.
“No we can’t,” he replied. DI Worthington, who investigated the incident, concluded there was no third party involvement and that Mr Riley accidentally fell. Mr Meadows recorded a conclusion of accidental death.
Earlier, Manchester Coroners’ Court heard that just before 9.30pm on September 23, British Transport Police (BTP) were called to Deansgate station, where a train had been stopped due to a ‘disturbance’. Mr Riley and his friend Joe Cholerton were spoken to by two BTP officers – Sam White and Joseph Prior.
Mr Riley was cooperative, the court heard. Officer Mr White spoke to three men on the train who had reportedly been the victims of an assault by Mr Riley and Mr Cholerton. None of them wanted to make a complaint., the court heard.
When Mr White returned, Mr Riley, said to have been angry at being questioned, sprinted to the exit. He was detained by a bouncer outside a bar on Deansgate Locks.
When Mr White returned to talk to Mr Riley again, he had ‘left of his own accord’, according to a member of staff at the station.
The next morning – at around 7.30am – a member of the public, David Hennigan, left Deansgate station and walked under the Metrolink bridge. He said he noticed blood on the ground, and behind a fence on the road, saw a body ‘lying face down’.
“I shouted ‘mate, mate, can you hear me?’,” he said in a statement read in court. “But they didn’t move. I was in a state of shock and called 999.”
Mr Hennigan tried to get to the body via a Bridgewater Street car park, before an officer at the scene told him he was dead. DI Worthington told the court Mr Riley suffered a number of injuries, including a significant head injury.
“He appeared to have fallen at some point but we don’t know how,” he said. “There was a lot of blood at the bottom of the stairs, which may have been the impact.”
DI Worthington added: “Mr Riley was involved in an incident at the train station and his friend ran away from the police. He took the opportunity to walk away and thought it was best to head out of the area for some time.
“He may have sat on the top rail and fell from there.” He said there were no suspicious circumstances and that it was not clear how Mr Riley ended up in the area where he was found unresponsive.
said her partner had been to the area before. By the time police requested to see CCTV from the location, it had been overwritten. It meant police could not ascertain how Luke got to the set of stairs – or if anyone was nearby at the time.
Police coroners’ officer Mark Littler, said a PC had been tasked with finding and viewing CCTV footage, but that it was only on December 8 when the council was contacted. The town hall said footage is overwritten after 30 days if no request is made.
Mr Riley’s cause of death was recorded as ‘traumatic head injuries with skull fractures’ by pathologist Dr Amani Brown. Toxicologist Dr Julie Evans said Mr Riley would have been nearly three times the drink-drive limit at the time of his death.
Senior coroner Nigel Meadows recorded a conclusion of accidental death, saying that being ‘very intoxicated’ probably led him to slip, trip or fall.
“A significant amount of alcohol in his system contributed to his death,” he told the court. “The CCTV that was available [from Deansgate train station] didn’t show anyone.
“There are a number of cameras that could have had a view of the routes that he had taken to leave the station. However, there was no request for this CCTV to be kept.
“There’s no evidence to show how Mr Riley got to where he was on the platform to where he ended up. This was a location he was familiar with because he had been there before with Miss O’Connor.
“I can’t speculate about certain events. There were no witnesses of him crossing the road.
“There were opportunities to try and preserve the evidence, which were not taken.”