A 55-year-old who collapsed during a police raid and later died of a cardiac event had no marks on his body to suggest he had been restrained excessively, an inquest has heard.
Chesterfield Coroner’s Court was told that Cyril McGuinness woke in bed at his home in Buxton, Derbyshire to find himself surrounded by police officers wearing stab-proof vests, who were carrying out a search requested by the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
Mr McGuinness was considered a key suspect in the kidnapping and torture of Quinn Industrial Holdings (QIH) director Kevin Lunney in September 2019. Three men have been convicted of the attack on the businessman, which was allegedly coordinated by Mr McGuinness.
The first day of an inquest before a jury of three men and eight women heard that Derbyshire Police forced their way into the property while exercising a warrant on November 8th, 2019 and that towards the end of their search operation Mr McGuinness went into cardiac arrest.
The inquest heard the warrant was linked to “serious matters” in Northern Ireland for which others stood trial.
Forensic pathologist Guy Rutty told the inquest he conducted a postmortem after being informed that Mr McGuinness, who had significant pre-existing coronary disease, was placed in handcuffs and “fully compliant” during the raid.
Prof Rutty said Mr McGuinness was given a nicotine patch by police after requesting one, as well as being allowed to have a cigarette.
“After about 45 minutes to 60 minutes I understand that he started to become unwell. He asked for his inhaler and he self-administered this,” the witness said. “However, his condition deteriorated, an ambulance was called, the officers at the scene gave him first aid and he must have arrested as CPR was started.”
An ambulance got to the scene at 8.28am and arrived at Stockport’s Stepping Hill Hospital at 9.40am, but Mr McGuinness was pronounced dead around 15 minutes later.
Asked whether the stress of the situation may have played a role in Mr McGuinness going into cardiac arrest, Prof Rutty told the jury: “His heart disease had reached a level that could cause sudden death at any time.
“I found no marks to suggest that he had been excessively restrained against his will or was subjected to any form of trauma . . . He could have just had a heart attack at any moment whatsoever.”
He added: “The other possibility is that the stress and the situation that he was in, ie the police entering where he was, the handcuffs . . . caused him to have a heart attack. Anything that increases your blood pressure or pulse rate could tip the balance.
“It isn’t possible as a pathologist to go either way. All I can say is that both are entirely possible and both relate to his heart.”
The inquest was told there was no suggestion that Mr McGuinness was “fighting against” the police or arguing with officers.
During questioning by a lawyer representing Mr McGuinness’s widow, Prof Rutty said it was possible that stress had “pushed” Mr McGuinness into cardiac arrest.
But he added: “He is not resisting and that’s the complete opposite to the cases which I normally see where they are shouting, fighting, trying to break free. That’s not the case here. He’s an hour into this . . . and his heart is so bad that he can literally drop down dead at any second.”
Both scenarios were possible, Prof Rutty said, adding: “I am very cautious. It could be a stressful event and it could place stress on the heart. But whether it did or not is another matter.”
The first day of the inquest, which is expected to finish on Wednesday, was told police body cameras were turned off at some point during the incident.
Derbyshire area coroner Peter Nieto told the jury: “You will hear that when the police attended those cameras were working and recording. At some stage those cameras were turned off and you will need to understand why that was.”
Mr McGuinness was not charged with anything and was held during the raid under powers allowing “reasonable restraint” during the exercise of officers’ functions.
Jurors were told it was the police’s intention not to arrest Mr McGuinness unless evidence was recovered which would have justified his arrest.