'We did everything we could': Police officer tells of car park negotiation

Inspector Lou Provart.PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Supt Lou Provart of Norfolk Constabulary - Credit: Archant

A senior police officer has described the psychological impact of a 17-hour negotiation which ended with a man falling to his death from a city car park.

On July 28, 2020, 54-year-old Christopher Billham went to the top of a building in Norwich, sparking a large-scale police incident which spanned from the morning until long into the evening.

It saw teams of negotiators, other police officers, firefighters and paramedics all playing roles, but ended when Mr Billham, of Keswick, fell from the roof of the building and died from his injuries.

On Tuesday, the seventh day of an inquest into his death held in Norwich, Norfolk Constabulary superintendent Lou Provart spoke of the psychological impact the incident had on everyone involved in the emergency response on the day.

Inspector Lou Provart.PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Supt Lou Provart of Norfolk Constabulary - Credit: Archant

Supt Provart, who was head of custody at the constabulary at the time, was part of the team managing the operation in the latter stages of the day - having taken over from an inspector as negotiation co-ordinator.

He told the inquest that the negotiation spanned such a time that a number of handovers were required and a variety of strategies deployed to support Mr Billham in his time of crisis.

And he added that every individual involved in the operation had been affected in some way by the events of the day.

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He said: "I truly believe the emergency services did everything they could to both help and support Christopher and it has had a profound effect on everyone involved.

"Not one single person has not been psychologically affected by this."

At an earlier day of the hearing, in a statement read to the jury, Mrs Billham said her husband's mental state had been improving after being discharged from Hellesdon Hospital, but that he had grown introverted after becoming "preoccupied" with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Billham had previously been sectioned under the Mental Health Act, but at the time was receiving care in the community - rather than under the care of a medical facility.

Of that evening, she said: "Chris seemed very unstable and the railing he was holding onto was really wet. He fell."

The inquest continues.