Dexter Bristol: Windrush victim’s inquest to be reheard
Relatives blame 58-year-old's death on stress of fighting deportation threat
04 February, 2019 — By Tom Foot
THE inquest into the death of a cleaner caught up in the Windrush scandal is to be reheard after a High Court victory by the dead man’s mother, who is demanding Home Office officials explain their actions.
Relatives of Dexter Bristol say the intense stress, which included fears that he would be told to leave the UK, his home for 50 years, contributed to his ill-health.
The 58-year-old, who lived in Mullen Tower, Holborn, collapsed and died in March last year, having spent a year trying to get the Home Office to acknowledge that he was not an illegal immigrant.
He moved from Grenada in 1968 – aged eight – but lost his cleaning job because he did not have a current passport, and was then denied benefits.
Details of his battle to prove to his right to live and work here were not heard by the first inquest in September, and north London assistant coroner Dr William Dolman refused the request to have Home Office representatives give evidence.
The appeal court ruled on Friday that the family has the right to ask the questions and that the inquest could be heard again. Mr Bristol had for 18 months before his death feared deportation, could not find work and was having problems registering with a GP.
After the judgment, the family’s lawyer Jacqui McKenzie told the New Journal: “Having worked with Dexter Bristol for a year prior to his death, I saw how his efforts to prove that he was a British citizen played havoc with his well-being and possibly physical health. It is important that any inquest into his death, given that he presented with a low risk of heart failure just a year prior, considers the wider issues of how stress could have precipitated a heart attack.”
She added: “Before the Windrush crisis we worked with several people in his situation and it was clear that the experiences of dealing with officialdom and government was making people ill. Even now we’re still picking up the pieces through the support network I set up, Windrush Action, to help people get through the process and move on with their lives.”
At the hearing in August, Dr Dolman refused to allow the court to consider whether “systemic flaws in the hostile environment policy” had contributed to Mr Bristol’s death.
The family later walked out of the hearing. It had told the original inquest they had medical evidence showing stress he experienced a result of his immigration.
Barrister Una Morris had told the hearing he had sent a Christmas card to his mother, 76-year-old retired NHS nurse Sentina, four months before he died. It said: “This whole thing is making me bitter and hateful and nobody wants to be that way forever.”
Dr Dolman ruled Mr Bristol died of natural causes after suffering acute heart failure. He concluded: “Here was a man that was at risk of death at any time with his quite severe heart disease.”