A POLICE officer has said an Oxford student he was sat with moments before he collapsed was chewing ‘herbal matter’ in the lead-up to his death.

At the second day of an inquest into Nuno Cardoso’s death, Oxford Coroner’s Court heard today that officers concluded that the 25-year-old – who they suspected of drinking and taking drugs – had nothing in his mouth after arresting him.

PC Charles Smith was with Mr Cardoso in the police van transporting him to Abingdon Police Station when he became unresponsive.

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Earlier in the evening – following an altercation involving two knives at Ruskin College – suspicions had been raised that Mr Cardoso might have had something in his mouth - but the decision was taken not to take him to the nearby John Radcliffe Hospital.

The student, who was born in Angola but grew up in London's Kentish Town, went into cardiac arrest while being transported to the station, at around 5.20am on November 24, 2017.

PC Smith said: “I watched him closely throughout (the journey)... he started to chew.


Mr Cardoso. Pic: Saunders Law/PA Wire

“He then started to sweat. I said to (Mr Cardoso) ‘if you have something in your mouth, spit it out.' He smiled and did not comply.”

Mr Smith added that it was police policy not to search mouths but admitted under questioning that if there was 'suspicion' that he could have swallowed or packed drugs he should have been taken to hospital.

However, he said that when Mr Cardoso initially got into the back of the van, he did not think he was either unwell, packing or swallowing drugs - but that the situation changed as the journey progressed.

He added that after Mr Cardoso started to 'chew herbal material' he quickly became unresponsive and passed out, before the van pulled over and CPR was performed.

The cause of death has been given as cardio-respiratory arrest due to drug intoxication - involving alcohol, cocaine and morphine.

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Mr Smith explained that, during the initial arrest at Ruskin College: “The suspect refused to open his mouth (but) the decision was made by (Officers Jordan Welch and Robert Prout) that (Mr Cardoso) did not have anything in his mouth.”

But Una Morris, representing the family, suggested that officers should have taken Mr Cardoso directly to hospital, rather than the police station.

Another officer, PC Katie Young, had earlier told the court that she wondered if Mr Cardoso was ‘playing silly buggers’, when she heard he had become unresponsive.

Arriving at the scene after other officers, she said she had “absolutely no concerns about his health” when he got into the van, but admitted she did not get particularly close to him at any point.

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She said she saw him respond to an officer in the van when he was arrested for a second time, and that he deliberately hit his head against the vehicle - but in a way that ‘would not have hurt him’.

When she heard over the radio that Mr Cardoso had become unresponsive, she told the court: “I thought that (Mr Cardoso) might have been playing silly buggers (from) my experience (of previous incidents).”

Statements from various friends showed varying levels of concern about Mr Cardoso’s apparent intoxication during the incident, which lasted hours overnight, but none suggested the situation would escalate as dramatically as it did.

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The court heard claims that Mr Cardoso had earlier punched fellow student Mataya Jules, before brandishing a knife when confronted by a group angered by his actions.

In body camera footage shown in court, an officer can be seen hitting Mr Cardoso’s leg twice with a baton - in an attempt to get him to release his arms.

During the footage, he does not respond to questions about whether he has a knife or drugs in his possession.

Mr Cardoso appears to mumble some responses, as officers question whether he has something in his mouth.

Mr Smith said his colleagues concluded that he would not have had a chance to put anything in his mouth during the arrest.

It also shows officers tackling him to the ground and appearing to take a knife from him, while another smaller knife was discovered at the scene, according to police.

The inquest, which is expected to last two weeks, continues.