A video has been released of the moment a man performed a fatal citizen’s arrest on a suspected burglar when he knelt on his back for nine minutes.
Nathan Smith, 38, was found not guilty of manslaughter today (January 26) after he tackled 43-year-old Craig Wiltshire in the street and knelt on him in the early hours of November 20, 2019.
And video released by Avon and Somerset police shows the moment that Nathan Smith pulled Mr Wiltshire off his bicycle and held him on the ground.
It also shows Mr Smith being spoken to by police in the aftermath of the incident.
In the video, Mr Smith can be heard telling a police officer that “every single person here was trying to hold him”.
He then goes on to say that Mr Wiltshire was biting and spitting, and “doing anything that he could” to get away.
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Police can be heard asking him whether he knew Mr Wiltshire or whether he knew his name, and he responds ‘no’ to both questions.
Mr Wiltshire died in hospital two weeks later on December 4.
He was believed to have been behind a string of thefts and break-ins in the Bristol suburb where Smith was employed as a live-in carer.
Mr Smith denied wrongdoing in the citizen’s arrest, claiming he believed Mr Wiltshire was “pretending” to be in distress so he would release him and he could escape.
He refused to ease off even when the victim twice told him he could not breathe, telling him “I don’t give a s**t what you can and can’t do”.
Despite repeated complaints to the police, the thief was never caught and there was no active police investigation into the break-ins.
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A post-mortem found the victim had the sedative diazepam and the heroin-substitute methadone in his system and a pre-existing heart condition.
Smith said he did not know that Mr Wiltshire was vulnerable to cardiorespiratory arrest, and that he did not know leaving someone in the prone position for a prolonged period of time was dangerous.
On Wednesday, a jury at Bristol Crown Court cleared Smith of manslaughter after four hours and seven minutes of deliberations.
The prosecution had claimed Smith was angry with Mr Wiltshire, and that he took the opportunity to punish him for his alleged crimes.
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Prosecutor James Ward cited insults hurled by Smith at the victim including calling him a “f****** piece of s**t” as proof he wanted to hurt him.
“I was being loud so other people would come, I didn’t want to shout ‘help’ so he knew I needed help, and I wanted to make him think I was more in control than I was,” Smith replied.
He insisted he wasn’t angry or trying to punish the victim, adding: “I just wanted the police to come and get him.”
Smith said Mr Wiltshire had been reaching for his pockets, adding he feared he had a weapon on him.
Kimberly Lock, a neighbour, said the community had been “terrorised” by the break-ins, and had extra locks fitted to her house, including a sliding bolt to her bedroom.
An expert in forensic and legal medicine told the court he did not think that Smith’s method of restraint, as a member of the public with no training, was inappropriate.
Professor Jason Payne-James added: “In terms of the persistence of the prone restraint, I believe that would have been inappropriate if police personnel had continued that for that length of time without moving or monitoring (Mr Wiltshire).”
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But Prof Payne-James agreed it was likely the victim would have survived if he had been sat up or rolled on to his back at the point he told Smith he could not breathe.
Smith’s employer Michael Crooks is also seen in the CCTV footage adding his weight to Mr Wiltshire for a few minutes, while his son Ben Crooks is seen kicking the prone man twice.
They have both admitted a charge of common assault and were not charged with manslaughter.
The jury was told to assume that Mr Wiltshire was the man suspected of committing burglaries in the neighbourhood over the previous weeks, and that the arrest was not a case of mistaken identity.
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