Chronic stress ‘would have acted upon Windrush migrant’s demise’, inquest told
A cardiologist has said that “chronic stress” caused to a Windrush migrant trying to prove his British citizenship “would have acted upon his demise”, an inquest heard.
Dexter Bristol, 58, who was born on the Caribbean island of Grenada, collapsed and died from acute heart failure on a street near his home in north London on March 29 last year while caught up in the immigration scandal.
The conclusion of a 2018 inquest into his death by Dr William Dolman was quashed following a judicial review by Mr Bristol’s family who contested the coroner’s ruling that the Home Office should not be an interested party in the inquest.
His mother Sentina D’Artanyan-Bristol argued for the role the Government’s “hostile environment” immigration policy may have played in his death to be considered, leading to the high court ordering a fresh inquest which began on Monday.
In 2018 ministers faced a furious backlash over the treatment of the Windrush generation – named after a ship that brought people to Britain from the Caribbean in 1948.
Long-term UK residents were denied access to services, held in detention or removed despite living legally in the country for decades.
Senior coroner Mary Hassell told St Pancras Coroner’s Court that evidence from the first inquest would be disregarded.
The coroner heard from pathologist Dr Alan Bates who ruled that, following a post-mortem examination, Mr Bristol died of natural causes – a cardiac arrhythmia – caused by aortic stinosis, which Mr Bates said the 58-year-old could have had “for more than 10 years”.
He told St Pancras Coroner’s Court there was “no reason to suppose chronic anxiety should be considered as a contributory factor”.
But Professor Jaswinder Gill, consultant cardiologist at Guy and St Thomas’ Hospital, told the court that the prospect of Mr Bristol losing his income and home as he struggled to prove his citizenship “may have contributed to the fact he had an arrhythmia”.
“He was under what I believe from looking at the notes was quite substantial stress from losing his income and abode and that would have contributed to his heightened risk of arrhythmias,” he said.
He added: “I therefore do believe that the excess stress… would have contributed towards his demise.”
Alan Payne, for the Home Office, told the court there “no evidence” that Mr Bristol, from Mount Pleasant, Camden, was at risk of being deported.
“In terms of your understanding, there is in fact no evidence at all he was going to lose his house or be removed,” he told Dr Gill.
However, Mr Gill told the court that Mr Bristol being without documents which proved his right to work would have contributed to his stress, adding: “I think the process of having to prove his residence status was something he had to undertake and I think the Home Office would agree with that.”
The coroner read a statement by Mrs D’Artanyan-Bristol to the court, which said her son “felt he was British”, explaining that she came to the UK from Grenada in 1961 and returned in 1968 to bring the then eight-year-old Mr Bristol back with her, on her British passport.
“I’m hurt and upset he had to prove his right to be in the UK,” the statement said.
“I don’t know whether he would have died aged only 58 if he had not gone through the year of stress and worry.”
Mrs Bristol and her family walked out of the first inquest last August following heated exchanges between Dr Dolman and the Bristol family’s lawyer at the time, Una Morris, who repeatedly tried to make submissions to the court about the Home Office.
The inquest continues.
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