G4S guards on trial for manslaughter of Jimmy Mubenga

Jimmy Mubenga

Jimmy Mubenga - Credit: Archant

Three G4S guards killed an Angolan deportee as they restrained him on a flight from the UK, a court heard.

Jimmy Mubenga, 46, who lived in Gants Hill, was heard by passengers to cry out repeatedly “I can’t breathe” as he was pinned down in his seat by the guards - despite already being handcuffed with his seatbelt on.

They ignored his desperate pleas and “disregarded their duty of care”, by assuming that the married father was “feigning” illness as the flight prepared to take off from Heathrow airport, jurors were told.

By the time the cabin crew of the British Airways flight raised the alarm on October 12 2010 it was too late, and Mr Mubenga had collapsed and gone into cardiac arrest. The whole incident took 35 minutes, the court heard.

Terrence Hughes, 53, Colin Kaler, 52 and Stuart Tribelnig, 39, are on trial charged with the manslaughter of Mr Mubenga.

A section of the Boeing 777 with three rows of three seats has been specially constructed inside Court 16 of the Old Bailey to demonstrate to the jury how Mr Mubenga died.

Prosecuting, Mark Dennis QC told the court that Mr Mubenga had been accompanied by the three Group 4 Securicor (G4S) guards as he was put on a plane at Heathrow airport to be deported to Angola.

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At 8.20pm, the flight crew on the British Airways plane contacted the control tower saying they had a “medical emergency” as they were taxiing towards the runway.

An hour earlier, as he boarded the plane, Mr Mubenga, who left his family and children in the UK, had been “fit and healthy” and “thoroughly co-operative”, Mr Dennis said.

“A few minutes after boarding, everything was to change. As Mubenga was returning from the lavatory, still accompanied by the three officers, something happened which set off a chain of events which ultimately led to his collapse and death.

“Mubenga and the three officers became embroiled in a commotion which quickly escalated into a physical struggle as the officers tried to force Mubenga into a row of seats and then into a seated position.

“He was then further restrained by the application of rigid handcuffs with his arms, hands bound in that way behind his back and his seat belt being applied around his waist thereby holding him into the seat.

“Such physical restraint should have been enough to hold Mubenga in the seat and above all to make Mubenga realise that there was not point in struggling further even if he had wanted to do so.”

The prosecutor said that despite being in an “excited state” “there was little he could do but accept the situation and calm down because he was in such a confined space and bound from behind and strapped in his seat.

Mr Dennis said: “The officers could, in effect, have simply stepped back and tried to calm the situation by words, only intervening with physical actions if the need arose thereafter.

“However, the officers did not take that course and instead sat one either side of Mubenga, with one leaning over from the seat ahead and between them endeavoured in effect to pin Mubenga down into his seat.

“In doing so, they held Mubenga in such a position bent forward that his ability to breathe properly was inevitable impaired.”

Mr Mubenga was an Angolan national who had been living in the UK for a number of years with his wife and children, the youngest of which was a few months old, the court heard.

Hughes, from Portsmouth, Kaler, of Kempton, Beds, and Tribelnig, from Horley, Surrey, deny the charge against them.