The close friend of a black man who died while being held by police officers has claimed he was “murdered”.
Sheku Bayoh died after officers responded to reports of a man in an agitated state carrying a knife in Kirkcaldy, Fife, on 3 May 2015.
The 31-year-old was hit with batons, CS spray and pepper spray and had been restrained on the pavement with wrist and leg ties.
His best friend Zahid Saeed, who had known Mr Bayoh since he was 17, gave evidence at a public investigation into the death on Friday.
“The truth is he (Mr Bayoh) was murdered in police custody,” Mr Saeed told the inquiry in Edinburgh.
In a written statement, he said Mr Bayoh had taken drugs the night before he died.
The 38-year-old appeared reluctant to answer questions on his friend’s behaviour and was fighting back tears, saying he could not remember events from seven years ago and was traumatised.
“First one was my son who was killed, then my friend, who was murdered in police custody,” he said.
“That has caused trauma. The questions you should be asking is to the police officers, not me, not me.”
Mr Saeed’s evidence was adjourned until a later date.
Fight with man in garden
Neighbours also called to give evidence said they had seen Mr Bayoh fighting with another man and carrying an eight-inch kitchen knife hours before he was pronounced dead.
Neil Morgan, who lived opposite Mr Bayoh, said he saw his neighbour – who he knew as “Chris” – fighting someone in a nearby garden as he returned home from working a night shift at about 7am.
The witness said he saw Mr Bayoh carrying the kitchen knife, recalling how “he was tapping it on his leg, and I said to him, ‘you can’t go round with that knife, you’ll get done’.
“Then he turned around to me and he said: ‘It’s not even sharp’… and sort of poked it at my belly.”
‘Good neighbour and friendly’
Mr Morgan said he had not felt “threatened” by Mr Bayoh and instead his “biggest concern” was wanting him to “come home… come in and have a cup of coffee”.
He said Mr Bayoh was a “really nice guy” and “never no trouble” but on the morning of his death he “wasn’t himself” and had “starry” and “gazey” eyes.
Another neighbour, Naomi Rhodes, also said she had seen Mr Bayoh fighting with another man outside her bedroom window the same morning.
She said Mr Bayoh, who she had known for four years, was a “good neighbour and friendly natured, never any hassle”.
The inquiry, before Lord Bracadale, continues.