NELFT staff grilled in court at Amarnih Lewis-Daniel inquest

Amarnih Lewis-Daniel, 24, was arrested in late January 2021 for throwing “home appliances” from the window of her seventh-storey flat in Chadwell Heath, her inquest at East London Coroner’s Court heard.

She was then arrested again in early March 2021 for causing a breach of the peace at her mother’s home. After being placed in handcuffs, she kicked police officers in the chest and stomach and “tried to bite them”, the court was told.

Mental health nurses who assessed Amarnih in police custody after those arrests have testified that with hindsight, they should have referred her for further assessment.

Both men said she refused to engage with them in the cells at Barking police station in early 2021, meaning they could not properly assess her mental state, but accepted that the circumstances which led to each arrest could have indicated that she was “not coping”.

Jurors at her inquest had already heard evidence from Amarnih’s mother that she had gone into “a downward spiral” after being subjected to years of “cruel” transphobic abuse.

Her mental health deteriorated, leaving her “anxious”, “agitated”, “paranoid” and prone to fits of anger.

“Amarnih, towards the end, scared me,” her mother Angela Lewis-Campbell said.

Amarnih was found dead weeks after the second arrest in early 2021, in the car park next to her home at Highview House, off of Whalebone Lane. A fire was raging in her flat above, the court heard.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: The inquest, at East London Coroners' Court in Queens Road, Walthamstow, began on Monday, November 20 - the International Transgender Day of RemembranceThe inquest, at East London Coroners’ Court in Queens Road, Walthamstow, began on Monday, November 20 – the International Transgender Day of Remembrance (Image: Google Streetview)

Jurors were sworn in on Monday, November 20 – coincidentally also the International Transgender Day of Remembrance – and told they will have to determine whether Amarnih intentionally brought about her own death and whether the actions of certain public bodies contributed.

The Metropolitan Police, Ministry of Justice, probation services, Barking and Dagenham Council and North East London NHS Foundation Trust (NELFT) are all represented by lawyers at the inquest.

The case is being heard at the East London Coroner’s Court in Walthamstow, where Amarnih grew up.

On Monday afternoon (November 20), Monsuru Ajadi from NELFT testified that he had met Amarnih in the Barking custody suite after her arrest on January 29, 2021.

He described her as initially “cooperative”, making eye contact and exhibiting “normal speech”.

But when he mentioned that it might be necessary to share any information she gave him with other people, “she stopped engaging”.

He wrote in his notes that no assessment could be completed, but made no onward referral.

“Throwing furniture out of a window on your house is quite a strange thing to do, isn’t it?” asked barrister Sophie Walker, of One Pump Court chambers, representing Amarnih’s family.

“It’s not,” said Mr Ajadi.

“It’s not?” she replied.

“This happens every day,” he said.

But he acceded under questioning by coroner Nadia Persaud: “Maybe I should have referred her to the access team at that time.”

The Access Team initially assesses mental health referrals.

“I should have sent an email,” Mr Ajadi testified.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Emergency services were called to a fire at Amarnih's home, off of Whalebone Lane, on March 17, 2021. She was found dead in the car park outsideEmergency services were called to a fire at Amarnih’s home, off of Whalebone Lane, on March 17, 2021. She was found dead in the car park outside (Image: Google Streetview)

On Tuesday (November 21), Abraham Ogunbola testified that he had encountered Amarnih in Barking custody on March 6, 2021, after her arrest at her mother’s address.

He said she once again “declined assessment”.

“She stated that she does not want any disturbance because my noise will give her a headache,” he wrote in his notes. “She shouted at me to leave her alone.”

Both men confirmed they’d had access to NELFT records showing Amarnih was diagnosed with anxiety, depression, traits of emotionally unstable personality disorder, gender dysmorphia and was awaiting an autism assessment.

“That’s quite a constellation of mental health difficulties, and you’ve not been able to carry out any assessment on her mental state,” said Mrs Persaud.

“This is now the second time she’s presented to the police in five weeks… Why didn’t you make contact with other NELFT teams?”

“I didn’t see that she is in crisis,” Mr Ogunbola said, adding that her offences “did not raise a red flag”.

But when asked by Mrs Walker whether, in hindsight, he felt he should have referred Amarnih for assessment, he replied: “Yes.”

Asked by barrister David Story, representing NELFT, what he would do in the same situation today, he said he would make a referral.

“You would send an email?” Mr Story asked.

“Yes,” Mr Ogunbola replied.

The inquest continues.

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