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Worcester man can sue police - even from beyond the grave
A CRITICALLY-ill cancer patient suing the police for wrongful arrest may not live to see the verdict.
But Keith Johnson aged 49, of Warndon, Worcester, wants justice, even from beyond the grave, after he was diagnosed with bowel cancer in July and given just two weeks to live.
He is seeking aggravated and exemplary damages for wrongful arrest and unlawful imprisonment from West Mercia Police after an incident in June 2010.
But he has already lost half his body weight as he battles the deadly disease and was granted permission to give his evidence early, ahead of a December hearing at Worcester Crown Court, as he fears he will not live long enough to present his case in person otherwise.
The father-of-four alleges he suffered a 14-hour ordeal after a Swift Azzura caravan he bought for £1,500 from Malvern Caravans in Powick, turned out to be stolen from an address in Birmingham.
Mr Johnson said of being able to present his evidence early: “I am so glad that the judges had compassion – this was an awful ordeal the police put me through. I suffer from asthma and was put in a van with no air-conditioning.
“The cancer hit me out of the blue and I went from 14 stone to 7st 3lbs, but I wanted to get justice before I died and that may now happen thanks to the judges in the case.”
Despite showing police his receipt and calling the salesman who sold it, he was handcuffed, arrested and taken to Worcester Police Station.
From Worcester, he was taken to Smethwick by West Midlands Police, who investigated the original theft.
He claims he had to get a taxi 70 miles home after a seven-minute interview established he was not the thief and he was released without charge.
District judge Phillip Mackenzie ruled that Mr Johnson could give his evidence in advance and his case was heard by His Honour Judge Toby Hooper at Worcester County Court.
Mr Johnson’s wife Liz, 40, said: “It’s taken us to hell and back – firstly the police harassment and treatment of Keith on that day and then the cancer.
“It’s terrible what they have put us through. It is an absolute nightmare.”
His lawyer Nick Turner, of Russell and Co in Malvern, said: “I have never in my entire career dealt with a case as compelling as this, or as unusual.”
The caravan was seized from an address in Gresham Road, Dines Green, in June 2010, which we reported in the Worcester News at the time.
Wayne Reeve, then aged 25, Mr Johnson’s son-in-law, reacted when officers arrived to remove the caravan from his drive.
He was given a conditional discharge after he hit the caravan with plywood and threw a vacuum cleaner at it.
The Johnson family, which also has connections to Malvern, were served with an eviction notice from their then home in Elgar Avenue back in 2008 by Festival Housing Group over concerns about the family’s anti-social behaviour.
West Mercia Police said: “It is not appropriate to comment at this stage of proceedings.”
However, they are understood to be contesting Mr Johnson’s claims.