Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Innocent British grandfather gassed himself hours after child porn police raided his home

What happened to the presumption of innocence?

A grandfather gassed himself just hours after child porn police raided his home - even though he was innocent.

Last night his widow launched a bitter attack on the police after hearing at an inquest how detectives who seized his computers found nothing illegal.

Michael Curtis's home was raided and three laptop computers seized after intelligence led officers to his address after he stumbled upon one indecent picture and viewed it for a matter of seconds.

The inquest into his death heard that the 50-year-old amateur photographer gassed himself with fumes from his car just hours after police had executed a warrant at his home.

Coroner Nicholas Gardiner was told Thames Valley Police would not have brought any charges against Mr Curtis after finding no evidence on his laptops.

The investigation on July 28 was led by Interpol intelligence from Luxembourg after Mr Curtis innocently viewed the picture in March, 2009.

His widow Ruth had told the inquest in Oxford: 'It doesn't matter what you write on the death certificate, I know you're going to write down he took his own life but he didn't. His life was taken that morning when those police officers arrived at the house.'

The inquest was told that four officers turned up to Mr Curtis's house in Banbury, Oxfordshire, at 9am with a warrant under the Child Exploitation and Welfare Protection Act to seize his computers.

Detective Sergeant Howard Berry told the coroner: 'There was no evidence but there was intelligence. Police in Luxembourg traced access to the website to the address.

'A picture had been viewed which was of an illegal nature. Intelligence came to police through international channels. Then there was a decision to investigate further and the warrant was issued.'

Mrs Curtis, together with sons Simon and Paul and daughter Jennifer, said after the inquest: 'The police effectively took Mike's life. They may as well have shot him.

'The police when they turned up to the house treated him like he was guilty and treated him exactly like they would a convicted paedophile.

'I don't understand how accidently looking at one single picture for a matter of seconds in March 2009 has filtered down into an investigation in July 2010. 'They must have known he didn't look at any other pictures or visited any other website afterwards. Surely they can come to the conclusion he stumbled upon it?

'He would have been totally shocked by these claims. He would have been thinking about what people would think and what would he tell the people he worked for. 'I want people to know he is innocent and did not do anything wrong.'

An hour after police had left the house, Mr Curtis drove to a DIY store and bought piping and wiring before returning home and locking himself in the garage, the inquest heard.

Mrs Curtis discovered his body slumped in the driver's seat of his car after she had returned home from work. He had left a note on the passenger seat which read: 'Hi Ruth, sorry, time to go. Of course I love you, Simon, Paul, Jenny, Cerys and Owen. The police have taken the computers.'

Mrs Curtis said he left bank account and shares details at the bottom of the note and signed it off with a sketch of the family.

Coroner Nicholas Gardiner, recording a verdict of suicide, said: 'Whether or not the warrant was rightly issued is to be taken up elsewhere. Clearly it impacted on Mr Curtis and he had obviously spent time thinking about it and decided to take his own life, and that is how I have to record his death.'

Original report here

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