WARNING: This article contains content that some readers may find upsetting
A carer who performed a citizen's arrest on a suspected burglar who later died has been cleared of manslaughter. Nathan Smith was accused of using 'excessive force' during his restraint of Craig Wiltshire in Bristol on 20 November, 2019. Here is the moment the incident unfolded:
Bristol Crown Court heard the defendant tackled the victim to the ground to stop him escaping before police arrived after he was seen trying to break into people's homes in the middle of the night.
Smith then pinned Wiltshire's chest down in the road with his head twisted to the side for a total of nine minutes, the jury heard.
Smith said he believed Wiltshire was only claiming that he couldn't breathe in a bid to escape.
This morning (Wednesday 26 January), after a nine-day trial, the jury returned a not guilty verdict, agreeing that the force he used was not excessive.
As he left the dock, the 38-year-old thanked the jury by making a prayer sign with his hands.
During the trial, CCTV of the 12-minute restraint was shown to the jury, with prosecutors acknowledging that Smith's citizen's arrest and hold were lawful, but arguing that by not easing up pressure he had used 'excessive force'.
Summing up to the jury, James Ward, prosecuting, said Smith was 'motivated by revenge' and 'teaching him a lesson'.
In his final submissions, David Hughes, defending, said Smith 'did not go out to be a vigilante' and he was 'publicly spirited in his actions'.
He told the jury the incident took place during 'highly charged' circumstances and said it should be recognised that Smith had no experience of restraint techniques.
He added: "He was dealing with a burglar who was struggling to get away and he wants to detain him until police arrive to arrest him."
He also pointed the jury towards the evidence of expert Professor Jason Payne-James, who argued the force was 'not excessive' and that Wiltshire died as a result of a 'perfect storm' of factors.
These included his slight build, a pre-existing heart condition and the fact he had taken diazepam and methadone.
Wiltshire, 43, died two weeks after the incident in hospital on 4 December.
Smith rushed to stop Wiltshire after he was seen on CCTV trying to break into cars and houses on the street.
Recounting the incident, he said: "I was just going to detain him and allow the police to get there.
"I saw him riding his bike. I pulled him off the bike and held him to the floor so he could not escape.
"He was fighting back. I did not think him saying 'I can't breathe' was genuine - I thought he was trying to get me to let him up so he could escape or attack me."
A post-mortem later gave a cause of death as cardiorespiratory arrest and subsequent brain damage, and Smith said he has not been the same person since.
He added: "It has had a large effect. It has been the worse two years of my life. I am currently on anti-depressants. I used to be quite a happy person but now I just feel mostly sad.
"I don't want to do anything any more and just keep myself to myself. I do my job and not much else."
Featured Image Credit: SWNS
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