A MOTHER who died in police custody lay in a cell for more than an hour before her body was found, an inquest was told.

Despite having CCTV inside her cell and staff checking on her twice, officers failed to notice Martine Brandon choking herself to death and her lifeless body lying on the floor of her cell in Southampton Central Police station.

It was one of a catalogue of failings by Hampshire police that were exposed during her inquest and led a coroner to conclude that Mrs Brandon’s death could have been prevented were it not for mistakes made.

As a result several officers have been disciplined and an investigation carried out by the police watchdog the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Hampshire police have issued an unreserved apology for Mrs Brandon’s death and said a raft of new measures had now been put in place.

Meanwhile her grieving husband has told the Daily Echo how his only hope was that his wife’s tragic case would never be repeated.

The inquest heard that the mother of one should never have been locked in a cell.

Senior Coroner Grahame Short criticised the decision by officers to arrest when she was found carrying a knife in Eastleigh town centre rather than detain her under the mental health act.

He told the court that different steps should have been taken as Mrs Brandon was clearly mentally unstable.

“While I understand that if a gang had pulled a knife out in the same circumstances then an arrest should be made,” he told Winchester Coroner’s Court.

“However, I think Martine was just a threat to herself and when the knife was taken away she should have been taken to a ‘safe place’.”

However, she was instead taken to a custody centre and the coroner said this would have only worsened Mrs Brandon’s state of mind.

The inquest heard how she told officers that her sister was trying to kill her and her family, how she was described as rambling and agitated and at one point tried to smear faeces over an officer.

Mr Short added communication between custody staff regarding the 48-year-old was inadequate, especially during the changeover of shifts.

That led to Mrs Brandon not being properly monitored.

The inquest, which was before a jury as the death happened in custody, heard how the pathologist put her death at 6.09am on November 1, 2014, as that was the last time Mrs Brandon could be seen moving from the CCTV footage in her cell.

She was subsequently ‘checked’ by officers looking through a hatch in the cell door at 6.42am and 7.07am but, unaware of her previous behaviour, officers assumed she was sleeping.

She was only discovered dead when officers went into her cell at 7.17am.

Outlining the extent of the failings in communication between shifts and between health professionals and custody staff along with a failure to keep an accurate detention log, Mr Short said: “These may have prevented her death.”

The inquest also concluded that the failure of custody staff to determine whether Mrs Brandon was under the influence of alcohol delayed a risk assessment from being carried out.

Mr Short recorded a verdict of death by suicide.

He said he would now compile a report which would make a series of recommendations to prevent future deaths which would be shared with Hampshire police and the College of Policing.

'Nothing will bring Martine back'

Mrs Brandon, originally from Lille in France, lived in Derby Road, Eastleigh, with her husband, Barry, and teenage son.

Just days before she was arrested , Martine had become angry after her husband was unable to leave hospital following a foot operation as a care programme was not set up in time.

She was then found on October 31, carrying an eight-inch knife in Eastleigh, officers recalled her saying: “You don’t understand, I have to kill my sister before she kills me and all of my family.”

She was taken into custody at Southampton central station where she angrily resisted a strip search and began shouting in French and English.

She was eventually put into a cell where she was found dead the following morning.

Speaking to the Daily Echo, Mr Brandon said he hoped nobody would go through the same treatment his wife endured.

“Nothing will bring Martine back, I know that,” said Mr Brandon.

“My sole intention was to make sure no one else will have to go through the treatment that Martine went through.”

Daily Echo:

'The facts speak for themselves'

Chief superintendent Mark Chatterton, head of Hampshire Constabulary’s Professional Standards Department, said action would be taken folllowing the hearing.

He added: “We are deeply sorry for the death of Mrs Brandon and I would like to apologise unreservedly to her family.

“The facts speak for themselves and in this case they show that some of her care fell below the professional standards expected from our officers and staff.

“Every person who is in our custody should be safe when they are in our care.”

Chief Supt Chatterton added: "The Constabulary takes this extremely seriously and I would like to reassure the family and the public that we will review the recommendations from the jury and have already taken action to learn from this very sad case.

“In addition to the independent IPCC investigation, improved training and the formal misconduct action that has been taken against relevant officers and staff, I have also personally made clear my expectations to all of those involved.

“I hope that the conclusion of this inquest allows Mrs Brandon's family to understand the facts about what happened and I apologise once again for their loss.”

Simon Hayes, police and crime commissioner for Hampshire and Isle of Wight, has demanded change following the inquest.

“The evidence shown during this inquest has clearly shown that the culture within the police has got to change.

“This behaviour is quite simply not acceptable or appropriate for a modern police force.”

Hampshire constabulary said that although the IPCC’s report has yet to be published, actions were already being taken including: - Bespoke training for all staff working in custody centres.

- Four people have been subject to misconduct proceedings and, as a result of this, a member of police staff has received a final written warning, a member of police staff has received a written warning and two police officers have received management advice.

- The force has an established peer review system in place. It has brought in closer working with agencies involved with mental health and vulnerability particularly when dealing with detainees that may have welfare or mental health issues.

- Custody centres are independently scrutinised not only by members of the Independent Custody Visitor Scheme, who conduct unannounced inspections on a weekly basis, but we now dip sample custody CCTV using our District Chief Inspectors to ensure our staff are acting in a professional manner at all times.

- The force is benefiting from a modernisation programme of its custody estate over the coming years to make them as safe as they can be for detainees and staff.