Saturday, 16 October 2010
BRING THE RAGE FOR JIMMY MUBENGA, JOY GARNDER NEVER FORGOTTEN
Jimmy Mubenga death: Witness accounts
Accounts from BA flight 77 where Jimmy Mubenga died after he was
restrained during a deportation
Friday 15 October 2010
Witness 1, Kevin Wallis, seated in the back row across the aisle from
Jimmy Mubenga. A mining engineer from Redcar:
"The guy was sitting right next to me on the plane, there was just
the aisle between him and me, so I could see everything … When I got
on the plane, this Angolan guy was already there, with three security
guards holding him tight, one on each side and one on him.
"The Angolan guy was going to be deported, obviously, and he didn't
want to. And he couldn't breathe. He was shouting in English, saying
"I can't breathe, get off me". And the guys were holding him very
strongly … They were saying: "He'll be quiet once we take off. At one
point, they checked on his pulse, and couldn't find anything. Then
some other guy came. An ambulance. I cannot say if he was dead when
they took him out of the plane. We hadn't taken off yet. I cannot say
if the guy was sick before he came inside the plane.
"They were holding him too tight when I arrived, I couldn't see him
well. Then the flight was delayed, and we were all taken to a hotel.
I tried to talk with other passengers about what happened, but I was
the only one who could see him that well. Because I was right next to
him. I asked a policeman at the airport about this Angolan guy. And
the policeman answered 'between you and me: he's dead'."
Witness 2, Ben, was seated in the row 28 middle seat, in the middle
section of seats around ten rows in front of Mubenga. A 29-year-old
Ben became aware a passenger was in distress after he boarded the
plane and saw a commotion. He said he saw one of three security
guards remove a handcuff from his pocket to restrain Mubenga's arms.
"There were three guys trying to hold him … This led to them pushing
everyone further up the plane, so we were all pushed into first
Allowed back into the main cabin, he said the three guards were
leaning on top of Mubenga. "You could hear the guy screaming at the
back of the plane. He was saying 'they are going to kill me'. That's
what he repeatedly said. He was saying that right from when I got on
the plane. He just kept repeating that all the way through."
Ben said it was not clear whether Mubenga was referring to the guards
or his political adversaries in Angola, and most of the passengers
were not concerned. "He was muffled because they were holding him
down … No-one was that alarmed by what he was saying. He just then
went quiet. We were about take off and there was an announcement
saying that someone on the plane was very ill."
Ben estimated that the total time the security guards were on top of
Mubenga trying to restrain him was "over 45 minutes". "He had been
slumped down on his seat because they were pressing down on him. You
only ever saw the top of his head a little bit or you heard him
muffle, because they were on top of him."
Passengers were kept on the plane until the early hours of this
morning, he said.
Witness 3, Michael, was seated in row 28. A 51-year-old oil worker
and US citizen:
Michael contacted a Guardian reporter via Twitter after reading what
he believed to be misleading accounts of Mubenga's death released by
the Home Office and G4S, a private security firm the government has
contracted to escort deportees.
He said he was haunted by Mubenga's pleas for help: "For the rest of
the my life I'm always going to have that at the back of my mind –
could I have done something? That is going to bother me every time I
go to sleep … I didn't get involved because I was scared I would get
kicked off the flight and lose my job. But that man paid a higher
price than I would have."
Witness 4, Andrew, seated row 23. A 44-year-old Eastern European
"At approximately 19:30 I boarded the aircraft. On my way to my seat,
seven to 10 rows in front I noticed that there was something going on
in the last row of seats. I noticed two big guys pushing something
with the weight of their bodies against the seats in the last row. At
that moment I saw only the backs of these men. I heard one voice
screaming and begging for help. I realised that the voice was coming
from the person which two men were pushing down.
"I took my seat in the vicinity of that place, across the aisle. I
could not see from my place what was happening behind me, but every
few minutes after I took my seat I changed my position to look back
and see how the situation developed. The screaming behind me
continued for the whole time. The man's voice was begging for help.
The tone of the voice was anxious and excited but not aggressive in
any way. The man among other words was using the following words
which I can recall: 'somebody help me', 'don't do this', 'they are
trying to kill me', 'I can't breathe', 'I have family', 'why are you
doing this', 'no, no, no, no'.
"He did not swear or use bad language. He constantly continued to
shout. In the beginning his voice was strong and loud but with the
time passing by, the voice was losing its strength. I heard the man
had difficulties breathing. Two men pushing the person down were
silent, at least I did not hear one word said by them. I did not hear
any fight noises – no kicking, no punching, no struggling which I
should have heard if it happened. Every time I looked back, I saw the
same picture – two men sitting on top of somebody. It continued for
approximately 30 minutes until the plane started to move.
"In the meantime cabin crew moved some of the passengers sitting
nearby to the front of the plane. I felt very disturbed by the way
two men were dealing with the situation. But, as I was sure that they
were policemen I expected them to know what they were doing. Also, I
was a foreigner not in my country and the cabin crew were around the
whole time. I was really afraid to intervene. I just said ironically
to my neighbour 'shall we call police?'
"The voice which continued to ask for help suddenly went silent. I
thought he was given some tranquilisers but then I realised that
police has no right to do that. From the moment he went silent, it
took a very long time – 10 minutes maybe? – until an announcement
about a sick person on board was broadcast and even longer – another
10 minutes? – until paramedics arrived. The man was put on the floor,
only then I heard CPR going on, but for a very short time only. Then
I realised the man must have died already. I know from experience,
that when people around the victim are no longer in a rush the person
must be dead.
"Later police officers arrived, he was removed to the galley area and
we were moved to the front of the plane where police took our contact
details. That was horrible, I also feel terrible because I did not do
anything. I would like to make his wife know how very, very deeply
sorry I am about this situation and about the fact I have not helped
her husband. Now, when I know that it was not the police, I am also
deeply shocked that the plane crew did not do anything to help this
man. I did not see them help even with first aid afterwards, when he
became silent. After all, the crew's first most important duty is the
safety of all passengers - including handcuffed, isn't it?
"I have been working for many years as an officer on board of cruise
ships, I have seen similar situations – never ending so dramatically
– and I would never ever imagine the situation like this could happen
in the civilised world. Maybe that is because in the UK the authority
of police and security is so high? I believe in my country, where
police is not so much respected, people would be much more willing to
do something witnessing situation like this."
Witness 5, Makenda Kambana, Mugenba's wife, spoke to him by phone
from her home in Ilford shortly after they boarded plane:
Kambana said she spoke to him as he sat on the plane waiting to be
deported. "He was so sad, he was saying 'I don't know what I am going
to do, I don't know what I am going to do.' Then he said 'OK just
hang up and I will call you back' … but he never did call back … I
never heard from him again."
She said she had spoken to him earlier in the day and he had appeared
to be calm and getting on with his guards. "He was friendly with
them. They did not put him in handcuffs because he was good to them.
I heard them asking him how are the children."
Kambana said the family had been devastated by his death. "I feel so
sad … I don't know, I was thinking if I was there to help him. The
children just can't stop crying and I don't know what to say to
Remember Joy Gardner
The last person to be killed while being deported by British authorities back in 1993.
Short BBC report here