Man ‘ran for his life’ before dying in citizens’ arrest headlock gone wrong

Christopher Walters had been spotted running away from New Road Garage, in Longton where an Audi A3’s windows had been smashed with a 14-pound sledgehammer

Horrified witnesses called 999 when they saw Christopher Walters, 25, being held in a ‘tight’ headlock

A man died after ‘running for his life’ and being placed under a citizens’ arrest, an inquest heard.

Horrified witnesses called 999 when they saw a 25-year-old male being held in a ‘tight’ headlock as two men tried to perform a citizens’ arrest on him.

Minutes earlier, Christopher Walters had been spotted running in Longton where an Audi A3’s windows had been smashed with a 14-pound sledgehammer.

Garage boss Jonathan Hassall and mechanic Benjamin Hunt gave chase, following him down a path near Gladstone Primary Academy.

An inquest heard today how they tried to restrain him. But what began as a citizens’ arrest turned into tragedy, reports Stokeon Trent Live.

Mr Walters was lying on the grass verge as Mr Hunt had him in a neck hold. The incident lasted for some minutes and he went into cardiac arrest.

He was later pronounced dead at Royal Stoke University Hospital.

Following his death, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) looked into the time between the first police officer arriving on scene and CPR being started on Mr Walters.

Christopher Walters had been spotted running away from New Road Garage, in Longton, where an Audi A3’s windows had been smashed with a 14-pound sledgehammer


Stoke Sentinel/BPM Media)

It was established this gap had been one minute and 47 seconds – a time described by North Staffordshire assistant coroner Sarah Murphy as ‘reasonable’ considering police didn’t have the full facts when they arrived.

The events unfolded shortly after lunchtime on May 15, 2019. The Audi A3 belonged to the garage and was parked outside when the alarm went off. It was found with several windows smashed.

A PE lesson was taking place in the nearby school grounds when Mr Walters was seen running down the path, out of breath and apparently ‘hugging’ the sledgehammer, with the others in pursuit.

One witness, Ricky Amos, was driving past when he spotted Mr Walters lying down on the ground. “The others were on top of him,” he recalled in a statement. Mr Hunt had his arms around Mr Walters’ neck.

“He had a tight grip of the man’s neck. The man was struggling to worm himself out.” Mr Amos said he saw one of the males holding the sledgehammer in the air before hitting Mr Walters’ legs with it.

Another passing driver, Michelle Leese, said in a statement: “I remember just seeing arms everywhere.” She also recalled seeing one of the men pick up the sledgehammer. At that point, she told her daughter de ella, who was also in the car, to call the police.

But the use of the hammer was later disputed by Mr Hunt. The 33-year-old, from Longton, is currently serving a 38-month sentence in prison after pleading guilty to a manslaughter last year.

Christopher Walters was pronounced dead at Royal Stoke University Hospital


Stoke Sentinel/BPM Media)

On his basis of plea, he said he deployed a headlock, but claimed neither he nor Mr Hassall had used weapons. Mr Hassall, 51, sadly took his own life days before he was due to stand trial.

Forensic pathologist Dr Alexander Kolar, who carried out the post-mortem, noted injuries to the legs, but no evidence of blunt force trauma. He put the cause of death down to compression of the neck.

Tests also showed Mr Walters, of Winchester Avenue, Bentilee, had used cannabis at some point before his death.

The initial call to the police related to the vehicle damage. It was only while en route from Stone that an officer got an update about the suspect being restrained by members of the public.

Sergeant Anthony McKenzie decided to go and assist in a police riot van. It turned out he was the first officer on the scene.

He saw Mr Walters being held by Mr Hunt, but said the ‘grip did not appear to be firm’. He told him to release the man.

Sgt McKenzie began checking Mr Walters for a pulse. It was at this point that PCSO Toni Foyle was driving past and stopped to help.

She said: “Sgt McKenzie shouted to the male, ‘Are you alright, mate’. As he did this, the male’s face moved slightly. I saw his lips were blue and he had grass in his mouth.

“I knelt down, putting him in the recovery position. I said, ‘This man needs an ambulance urgently’. I started chest compressions.”

Addressing the inquest, Nicola Brooks, the solicitor for Mr Walters’ mother, said there was no evidence he’d shown any aggression towards the men. She added: “He was simply running away. As it turned out, he was running for his life and was cornered in an area of ​​Wood Street, where he was set upon for some 15 to 20 minutes.

Concluding the death was due to unlawful killing, Ms Murphy said, on the balance of probabilities, Mr Walters had caused the vehicle damage. But she added: “He did n’t deserve to lose his life from him.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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