28 Oct Kevin Clarke: Mother ‘devastated’ after mural of son who died in police custody is painted over | UK News
The mother of a black man who died in police custody says she is “devastated” after his mural was taken down by developers against her wishes.
Thirty-five-year-old Kevin Clarke, who had schizophrenia, died in March 2018 after being restrained by officers in a field.
An inquest concluded the way in which he was restrained “probably more than minimally contributed” to his death, and the use of police restraint was “inappropriate”.
A mural, depicting different stages of Mr Clarke’s life, was created opposite Lewisham police station in south London to honour his memory in September.
The artwork was painted on hoardings surrounding Balfour Beatty’s £345m Lewisham Gateway development.
It was allowed to remain there despite the fact permission was not granted for its installation.
Wendy Clarke, Kevin’s mother, said the mural “meant so much to us as a family”.
She added that it “served as an important piece of art to raise awareness about deaths in police custody here in the UK and the pain and the hurt that this causes families”.
She described the art as “a beautiful painting” and said that following the inquest’s conclusion, her family were “finally beginning the process of grieving and now this has happened, the day after my birthday”.
“I am devastated,” she said, “I don’t have words”.
Mrs Clarke says she found out about plans to paint over the mural on Saturday night, the day before her birthday, but she had not had a chance to respond.
In the early hours of Monday, the mural was painted over.
Selina Parris, Kevin Clarke’s cousin, said the developers cannot have realised how important the artwork was to the family and “how much it helped” them.
She added that many people in the community had reached out to them after seeing the mural.
A sign has been erected on the boards where the mural was installed saying “an authorised artwork has been removed from this location following agreement with relevant parties.
“The temporary art installation supporting local artists is positioned on the north-facing hoarding surrounding the project, opposite the Lewisham DLR station.
“We would like to take this opportunity to remind the public that hoardings are private property and are installed to ensure the work area is secured for health and safety reasons.
“They should not be used for artwork unless permission is granted by all relevant parties.”
The organiser of the mural Adam Pugh, a former police officer and now anti-racism campaigner, told Sky News that Balfour Beatty had already released a statement saying they would not paint over the artwork.
Mr Pugh said the developers have “destroyed the art despite pleas to let us have the hoarding to move to a more permanent location”.
He added that local Lewisham councillors and the mayor were supportive of this and that the developers “have certainly not attempted to contact me and no agreement has been made”.
A spokesperson for Balfour Beatty, said: “On Saturday 19 August, we were made aware that unapproved artwork had appeared on a section of hoarding after the site closed on the Friday.
“Since its installation, we have been working with Kevin Clarke’s family to mutually agree upon a solution that will commemorate the artwork after it has been removed. We are pleased to have been able to work with those close to Kevin Clarke on an alternative they are happy with.
“Due to health and safety restrictions at this location, the artwork has now been removed and will be returned to the generic blue hoarding surrounding the rest of the site.”
It’s understood Balfour Beatty was in touch with another family friend working independently of Mr Pugh.
Police body camera footage played during Kevin Clarke’s inquest showed him saying “I can’t breathe” whilst being restrained.
The jury into Mr Clarke’s death returned a narrative conclusion and said it was highly likely at least one officer heard Mr Clarke say it.
“Failure to remove restraints at this point was contrary to guidance and training,” they added.
A number of failings were identified including by the London Ambulance Service and police officers.