THE family of an Oxford who died in the back of a police van said they were 'extremely disappointed' with the findings of an inquest into his death, saying it did not 'reconcile' with evidence heard.

Nuno Cardoso, a 25-year-old student from London, died on November 24, 2017, having been arrested by Thames Valley Police.

An inquest into his death, largely focusing on the use of force and restraint by officers and whether Mr Cardoso had been able to swallow drugs he was hiding in his mouth, took place at Oxford Coroner's Court over the past two weeks.

At the inquest conclusion on Wednesday, the jury recorded a narrative conclusion, stating Mr Cardoso died as a result of cardiorespiratory arrest caused by intoxication from alcohol cocaine and morphine.

The jury also accepted police evidence that officers did not believe Nuno had swallowed drugs, or that he had anything in his mouth, and that the situation was not initially classed as a medical emergency - despite police guidance at the time saying anyone believed to be 'packing drugs' should be taken to hospital.

After the inquest Doroteia dos Santos, Mr Cardoso’s mother, said: “My family and Nuno’s friends have had to endure over a year and a half of waiting since Nuno’s death and six days of evidence in the coroner’s court to find out the truth about how he died.

"We are extremely disappointed by the jury’s conclusion, which we cannot reconcile with the evidence we heard."

Ms dos Santos added: "Each of the four police officers involved accepted in evidence that they knew of the guidance which said, if someone was believed or suspected to have swallowed or be packing drugs, that they should treat the situation as a medical emergency. Officers also accepted that they had a duty of care to my son.

"Yet Nuno never opened his mouth to show the officers whether he had anything inside and he was not taken to the hospital, despite it only being five or six minutes away. Instead, officers set off for Abingdon Police Station, around 20 minutes away, and Nuno collapsed in the back of the van. My belief is that those officers did not care for my son."

INQUEST, a charity providing experience on state-related deaths, said Mr Cardoso was one of five black men to die following use of force by police in the year 2017, the majority of which relate to the police’s response to drug swallowing or consumption.

Director Deborah Coles said: “The inquest heard that, not only were officers aware of [safeguarding guidelines], but if they had been followed Nuno may have been saved. Police forces nationally need to improve their policies and practices to ensure care, not disbelief, is the default position.”

She added: "The police encounter a variety of people, many of whom are vulnerable, unwell or intoxicated. Recent inquests have highlighted failures or delays in police responding to dangerous situations as medical emergencies.

"Too often this is based on a suspicion of people feigning illness or a problem, particularly those from black and minority ethnic groups.

"There is no harm in police taking people to hospital to be checked and receive care. However the cost of overlooking warning signs, especially to families like Nuno’s, is immeasurable.

"There are clear policies in place to safeguard individuals suspected of consuming or swallowing drugs.

Ruth Mellor of Saunders Law, who represented Mr Cardoso's family, said: “The evidence heard over the course of this inquest has reinforced concerns about the police response to people in their care, as well as the action that they take when things go wrong.

"The jury saw footage of officers asking Nuno what he had in his mouth, discussing whether he had anything in his mouth, and telling him that they would have to take him to hospital if he did not open his mouth.

"Despite this, Nuno was not taken to the hospital that was only five or six minutes away.

"It is hugely concerning that officers who gave live evidence in this inquest said that they thought at some point that Nuno was faking – whether that was pretending to have something in his mouth or pretending to become unwell.

"The risks associated with swallowing or packing drugs are high, and if police officers do not take these situations seriously then families will continue to lose loved ones while they are in the custody of the police.

"Before they wrote their initial accounts, the four key officers were told by their sergeant that they could talk amongst themselves, with no guidance as to what they could and could not talk about. Poor post incident management such as this makes it especially difficult for families to have faith in IOPC and Coronial investigations.”