Police misconduct hearing to start after Blackburn death of woman, 35, who had been in custody

A POLICE misconduct hearing is to take place from Monday into the death of a woman who hanged herself in custody.

Former sergeant Jason Marsden is alleged to have ‘fallen short of the standards of a competent custody officer’ in his dealings with Kelly Hartigan-Burns, 35.

The detainee was found ‘unresponsive’ in their cell at Greenbank Police Station, Blackburn, at around 1.30am on December 4 2016.

She was taken to hospital and put on life support and the day after she was pronounced dead.

Kelly’s family described her as bright and positive. She was training to be an accountant after leaving school and making plans for the future.

However, this was impacted by the sudden and traumatic death of her father. She lived with her civil partner, Cal. Cal sadly died in 2020 before learning the details of what happened to her.

The charity INQUEST said Kelly had a history of mental ill health, self-harm and alcohol misuse. She was under the care of community mental health professionals in East Lancashire NHS Trust. At the end of November 2016, Kelly’s family became increasingly concerned about her.

A spokesperson said: “On 3 December 2016, Kelly walked out of her and Cal’s home in Bolton after an argument. Members of the public reported seeing her on a main road in her pyjamas.

“Lancashire police officers attended and took her home, where Cal explained that she was vulnerable and needed care, and that things had just got out of hand.

“Kelly was arrested for common assault and taken to Greenbank. Sergeant Marsden was charged with booking Kelly into custody.”

The hearing is scheduled for three weeks. An inquest into Kelly’s death is scheduled for early 2022.

June Hartigan, Kelly’s mother, said: “Kelly was loved by everyone that met her, she was doing fantastic at a young age. She loved spending time with family and was very supportive, always trying to help people if they were struggling.

“Unfortunately, she had faced significant challenges, including traumatic bereavements and car accidents, which contributed to her mental ill health. However, during her recovery she worked part time while studying to successfully gain a degree and was making plans for the future.”

I miss her so much; it is heart-wrenching and I don’t think this pain will ever change. We have waited so long for answers and I often worry that she has been forgotten. I hope this hearing can begin to help us understand the truth about what happened, and make sure it never happens again.”

Deborah Coles, Director of INQUEST, said: “This family has waited far too long for answers and accountability.”

Carolynn Gallwey, of legal firm Bhatt Murphy, who represent the family, said: “Kelly’s family have waited with great dignity and patience, for almost five years for the facts of her death to be the subject of any public scrutiny – this hearing is hugely important for them but also for public confidence in the police. We hope that all concerned will put those concerns front and centre.”

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