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Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Inquest hears status fight took devastating toll on Windrush migrant's health

Written by Courtney Carr

A Windrush migrant who died while trying to prove his British citizenship was described as a "shadow of himself" by his lawyer.

Dexter Bristol collapsed in the street and died of heart failure while caught up in the immigration scandal.

His immigration lawyer, Jacqueline McKenzie (pictured), said his battle to prove his right to be in the UK had taken a devastating toll on his health.

"We saw at the outset a very robust person but distressed by the fact that he was having to prove his status in the country, even though he had been here since 1968.

"He was prepared to fight but, as the months went on and he was required to find more evidence, it became very difficult and we saw him just decline into a shadow of himself."

Giving evidence at his inquest at St Pancras Coroner's Court in central London, she said Mr Bristol would not have been forced to go through the process under the current Home Office rules.

She said he had become increasingly stressed and worried, and added: "I wrote to Dexter because he was so down and kept saying he was going to be kicked out of the country - 'I don't know Grenada, I don't remember it and don't want to go back there, my life is here'."

The letter she wrote reassuring him that his case would be resolved was found unopened after his death, she said.

Mr Bristol's family walked out of the inquest after a heated exchange between their lawyer and the coroner.

His relatives wanted to make submissions to the court about the possible role that Home Office policy played in his health.

But coroner Dr William Dolman ruled that the Home Office should not be an interested party in the inquest because it was not relevant to the immediate circumstances of the 57-year-old's death.

After unsuccessfully applying for an adjournment, Mr Bristol's mother, Sentina Bristol, said the family was "disappointed" and fighting for justice.

Speaking after leaving Tuesday's hearing, she said: "We want justice, that's what we're fighting for - justice. That's what I would like to see happen."

Before the family asked the court to rise so they could withdraw, there were heated exchanges between Dr Dolman and the Bristol family's lawyer.

Una Morris repeatedly tried to make submissions to the court about the Home Office.

But Dr Dolman accused her of "trying to tell me how to run my court" and repeatedly ordered her to sit down.

He later apologised to Ms Morris and Mr Bristol's family, saying: "I didn't mean any discourtesy at all."

Ms Morris replied that the family "are deeply upset at the way you spoke to me".

Dr Dolman conducted the inquest without any of Mr Bristol's relatives or their lawyers present and concluded that he died from natural causes - acute cardiac arrhythmia.

He added: "I accept from the evidence that the deceased was suffering from a great deal of stress at the time."

Mr Bristol, who lived in Camden, north London, died from acute heart failure on March 31.

He had not visited his GP for more than a year and believed he could not change surgeries unless he could prove his immigration status.

He was also unable to gt a job and thought he was at risk of losing his home because he did not have documents proving his right to be in the UK.

Mr Bristol was born in Grenada and came to the UK with his mother - a trained nurse and British citizen - in 1968 when he was eight.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Nick Ansell / PA Wire.