Extra training offered to police after death of man who fell from car park

Police have issued street drinking warnings n Norwich. Picture: Ian Burt.

Police officers in Norfolk are being offered additional training in complex negotiations following the death of a man in Norwich last year - Credit: IAN BURT

Police officers are being offered additional specialist training around negotiation following the death of a man who fell from a city car park.

Christopher Billham, of Keswick, died in July 2020 after falling from the roof of a car park in Norwich city centre, after emergency services spent some 17 hours negotiating with him in his hour of need.

An inquest into his death resumed last week and is due to conclude on Thursday, with a jury considering more than a week's worth of evidence surrounding the incident.

The lengthy operation saw emergency services exhaust a wide range of approaches to supporting the 54-year-old, which included drafting in a mental health worker, a paramedic and, as a last resort, his wife into the negotiation process.

But after more than 17 hours, Mr Billham, a betting shop manager from Keswick, fell from the roof of the car park, dying as a result of his injuries.

During the penultimate day of the inquest, the court heard how additional training and support were being offered to members of the constabulary around crisis negotiation.

Inspector Daniel Kett told the inquest that a training plan eight months in the making had recently begun, with the first sessions having been held in the past month.

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He added that emergency services had also recently paid visits to the city centre's car parks to assess safety measures and that the city council was working up plans for further improvements.

Insp Kett, however, echoed the belief of his colleague Lou Provart, who had earlier told the hearing he believed that every possible avenue was pursued in efforts to help Mr Billham during the incident.

He said: "Every option that could have been explored was explored and every individual was doing everything they could [to help]."

However, some questions were raised over communication between the constabulary and the fire service during the operation, after one firefighter told the hearing he was not entirely certain of his role.

Insp Kett added that a full debrief of communications between the two services would be completed once the inquest had finished.

The inquest concludes on Thursday, October 14.

If you need help or support, please contact the Samaritans on 116 123 or Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust’s First Response helpline on 0808 196 3494 both 24/7. Alternatively download the Stay Alive app, which is backed by Suffolk User Forum, if you are having thoughts of suicide or if you are concerned about someone else.