Mother of ‘bullied’ student police officer says she ‘gave up her baby to service that killed him’
The mother of a student police officer who took his own life in March has said she “gave her baby up to a service that killed him”, as she and the rest of his family demand justice.
Anugrah Abraham’s family claimed his death on 3 March was caused by bullying and racism he faced while doing a placement with West Yorkshire Police (WYP) as part of his degree at Leeds Trinity University.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) initially recommended WYP investigate the matter itself. But, following calls from Abraham’s family, the IOPC announced yesterday it had reconsidered its decision and will now conduct an independent investigation.
The 21-year-old’s mother, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “I gave my baby up to a service that ultimately didn’t cherish value or nurture him – but killed him.”
Speaking to The Independent, his aunt Rita Alfred-Saggar, from Manchester, said the “close-knit” family has “all been destroyed.
“How [does the] family move on from this?” she asked. “This is a case of someone being bullied to death. The police, they have blood on their hands. We want some answers as to why this is all allowed to go on and who is going to be held responsible.”
Abraham’s family said they are “relieved” about the reversal of the watchdog’s decision and are expecting a “fearless and thorough investigation to be completed as soon as possible”, with the family at its heart.
Ms Alfred-Saggar said she wanted to highlight how there is an “endemic culture of bullying, brutalism, racism, homophobia, sexism within the police – which is not just limited to the Met”.
“Anu’s parents don’t want to see any other parents going through the grief they’re going through – it’s hideous,” she said. “Families that this has happened to don’t even have time to grieve because they’re in this David and Goliath fight almost immediately – and that’s inhuman. But if we don’t do this now and face these faceless institutions, we will never get justice and Anu’s death will have been in vain. ”
Abraham was described by his family as going from being a loving, smart, hard-working “happy young man, proud to be a serving police officer, to becoming increasingly unconfident and anxious”.
His parents and two sisters said they regularly heard about how Abraham was unsupported, insulted and criticised at his job. They claimed he was sent out alone to deal with cases that involved serious harm, which left the 21-year-old feeling vulnerable, isolated, afraid and ill-equipped.
The family said Abraham was shaking when he told of how he was instructed to carry out a full search of a dead body that was floating in a river, despite his being a student officer and there being two other officers present. Abraham initially vomited and later broke down in tears – but the family claimed they did not care, before proceeding to insult and criticise him in front of the rest of the team.
The family said the treatment of Abraham, who was Asian, was at least partly a result of racism, despite WYP speaking about how it welcomed a diverse workforce.
He started to struggle to sleep, having vivid nightmares about work, and becoming more stressed and anxious. The family said he reached out for help on several occasions, including to his seniors and telling his university he was having suicidal thoughts.
Following a two-week break away from work, Mr Abraham failed to return home ahead of his first shift back. He was found by an early morning dog walker, even though the family claimed the police looking for him. Greater Manchester Police (GMP) had told them they had seen no sign of him in their own search.
Ms Alfred-Saggar said “nothing has changed” despite multiple reviews of police culture and standards in recent years. Last week, Baroness Louise Casey’s report, commissioned in the wake of Sarah Everard’s murder, exposed a series of grave concerns about the Metropolitan Police Service.
Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley accepted Baroness Casey’s “deeply troubling diagnosis”, and that the force contains racists, misogynists and homophobes, and has systemic failings, but he refused to adopt the labels of institutional racism, misogyny and homophobia.
IOPC Regional Director Emily Barry said: “Having carefully considered representations made to us on this matter, we have determined it is now in the public interest for us to independently investigate these serious allegations.
“We also received a mandatory referral from Greater Manchester Police due to the fact PC Abraham had been reported missing to the force on 3 March. Following a detailed assessment of the available information, we identified evidence of positive action taken by the force to locate him after they were made aware he was missing.
“In light of this, and in the absence of any concern that police action may have caused or contributed to his death, we determined independent oversight or investigation by the IOPC was not required and on 9 March returned the matter to GMP to deal with in a proportionate manner.”
A West Yorkshire Police spokesperson said: “‘We welcome the decision by the IOPC to manage this as an independent investigation, in fact the Chief Constable had already written to them supporting the same course of action. We will of course fully cooperate with their investigation.”
DCI Dave Jones, of Greater Manchester Police's Professional Standards Branch, said: “In line with normal procedure, the incident response was referred to GMP’s Professional Standards Branch and the Independent Office of Police Conduct for review. The conclusion was that GMP had not caused or contributed to Anugrah's death and that the force had responded appropriately to the missing person's report. The force has not received a complaint in relation to this case.”
A Leeds Trinity University spokesperson said: “We take our students’ welfare very seriously and offer a dedicated Student Support service seven days a week, with full information available on the myLTU platform. We will continue to work closely with our partners to support further enquiries.”
The family has set up a GoFundMe to help with financial support for Mr Abraham’s funeral costs.
In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123, or email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at befrienders.org