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Inquest in County Hall, Maidstone, concluded into death of Richard Betts, who died in East Malling

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A young man died after his father, who had been attacked by his son and feared for his life, was left with no choice but to pin him on the floor for up to 40 minutes while waiting for police.

Richard Betts pleaded with his son, also called Richard, who had a history of drug and alcohol misuse, to calm down and accept help, before he restrained him on the kitchen floor of their East Malling home, while relatives, including children and a pregnant woman, hid upstairs, an inquest heard.

A police car in Larkspur Close after the incident
A police car in Larkspur Close after the incident

The mum of Mr Betts blamed her son's death on Kent Police, as they took 49 minutes to arrive.

Mr Betts Snr had said he would get off his son when officers arrived, repeatedly asking where they were and shouting that they need to hurry up, on the evening of June 25, 2018.

During the inquest, which was held over two days and concluded today, a police inspector admitted that despite the incident being categorised as "immediate", which means there is a danger to life, officers were not able to get there sooner because of "significant" resources issues.

Richard Betts, 23, died after his father sat on his lower back, suffering multiple organ failure and a heart attack. He was resuscitated but the damage to his organs and brain were too severe and he died at Maidstone Hospital the next day.

Coroner James Dillon heard in a statement from Mr Betts Snr, who attended the inquest, that the former Malling School pupil had enjoyed swimming and fishing as a child but went off the rails after he was expelled from school.

Richard Betts died in June 2018
Richard Betts died in June 2018

Aged 15, he started to take cannabis and that escalated to harder drugs such as ecstasy and cocaine as he got older. In the last few years, he had been taking a concoction called Lean, a mixture of energy drinks and codeine cough syrup.

He was also diagnosed with depression and anxiety and was taking a mix of antidepressants.

The father-of-one had been referred to mental health services but appointments were not always followed through.

At the start of 2018, he attempted suicide and also overdosed twice in 2017, the inquest at County Hall in Maidstone heard.

Before June 25, police had been called up to six times because of violent behaviour towards his father.

Mr Betts' sister Tammy said in a statement that her brother had "recently turned a corner" but had fallen in with the wrong crowed.

On the evening of June 25, Mr Betts arrived at his family's home, in Larkspur Close, with a spade and screwdriver, shouting and screaming.

He tried to get in by throwing a flower pot through a window and kicking the door. He had previously gone to his girlfriend's flat in Aylesford, shouting insults from outside, prompting a neighbour to call the police, who arrived after he had left.

The two-day inquest was held at County Hall in Maidstone
The two-day inquest was held at County Hall in Maidstone

Mr Betts Snr rang the police upon his son's arrival and tried to stop him from entering, which resulted in him being stabbed in the arm with a screwdriver.

Using a spade, Mr Betts broke into the kitchen and his dad tried to defend himself with a chair before being hit twice.

The pair ended up on the floor and Mr Betts Senior, who weighs about 130kg, sat on his son, with his face down, holding down his arms.

Upon noticing his son's hands were blue, Mr Betts shouted "Rich, Rich", to no response. He started performing CPR, desperately listening to instructions from the ambulance service operator he had called.

During the inquest, Mr Dillon also heard evidence from Richard Betts' mum and partner of Mr Betts Snr, Angela Smith

She said when her son arrived, her partner shouted: "What's wrong with you? What have you been taking? Let's talk about it, let me help you."

A 999 call handler, who was listening as the pair remained on the floor, heard the 23-year-old repeatedly saying he couldn't breathe and his dad telling him to calm down many times and that would help his breathing.

He said he would not let him up until the police arrived.

'Let's talk about it, let me help you...'

At 7.25pm, Mr Betts is heard saying "help me, help me, help." Just over 13 minutes later, Mr Betts Snr called the ambulance service.

When the police arrived, he told an officer: "It's crazy, I have been waiting for you. I was sitting on him, there was nothing I could have done otherwise I would have been killed."

Mr Betts was arrested on suspicion of GBH and then on suspicion of murder but he was released without charge.

In her statement, Ms Smith said: "I hold the police fully responsible for my son's death because they didn't turn up quickly enough."

Giving evidence, Insp Alex Tyler admitted there were "significant resources issues at the time" and no available resources in the area.

The court heard the police were first called about Larkspur Close at 6.54pm but there were not any available officers in the area, nor any available further away.

Two officers did eventually become free from their duties and they arrived at 7.43pm.

Insp Tyler said following the incident a set of instructions had been published on how to deal with immediate calls.

Matthew Holdcroft, counsel for Kent Police, said: "This was one of those occasions where simply there wasn't anyone that could be deployed. Improvements have been made to the policy to make explicit what was already implicit."

A voluntary referral was made to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) in relation to Kent Police’s response to the incident and the watchdog confirmed in July 2018 that it was launching an investigation.

Asked about the status of the investigation now, an IOPC spokesperson said: “Our investigation is complete and our report has been shared with the coroner, Kent Police and with Mr Betts’ family. A summary of the report will be published in due course.”

Mr Dillon recorded a narrative verdict. Speaking to Mr Betts Snr, he said: "What would have been in your mind quite plainly was to keep him from harming yourself and anyone else and indeed himself until the police arrived."

He said the father was "defending himself in his home".

He went on: "I am satisfied Kent Police followed their procedures. They had quickly recognised the urgency of the call. The issue was not they failed to deal with the call, the issue was they didn't have the resources to deal with the call."

A toxicology report found levels of Xanax "higher than a therapeutic" level, which promotes aggression as a side effect.

The medical cause of death was given as multiple organ failure and hypoxic brain injury, cardiac arrest (resuscitation), prone restrained with additional asphyxia in a person with a high body mass index and mixed drug use.

For more information on how we can report on inquests, click here.

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