'I didn't put my arm around his neck,' Pontins worker tells inquest
- Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY/PA WIRE
A Pontins security worker told an inquest how he restrained a father-of-three after he "lunged forward" and was "throwing punches" in a row with fellow guests about a child’s behaviour.
Paul Reynolds, 38, from Colchester, died in hospital two days after the incident at Pontins Pakefield near Lowestoft in February 2017.
Timothy Cator-Durrant, a service support officer at the site, told area coroner Jacqueline Devonish that, after taking a phone call, he returned to the park's ballroom shortly after 11.30pm on Valentine's Day to help defuse an incident between guests.
He told Thursday's hearing in Ipswich he entered and saw an argument taking place between Mr Reynolds, his partner Carrie Bennett, Pontins colleague David Foster and two other guests, a man, and a woman.
Ms Bennett earlier told the inquest the woman's daughter had been “smacking” her son.
Mr Cator-Durrant said a call had gone out for fellow officers to help and he arrived first, while off-duty staff member Mr Foster had been sitting with the guests involved in the row.
Approaching the group from behind, Mr Cator-Durrant said he could see Mr Reynolds "lunging forward", adding that "punches were flying", so he felt he had no alternative than to put him in a bear hug.
"Punches were being thrown, not by myself," he told the coroner, alleging Ms Bennett struck him in the altercation.
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He described Mr Reynolds grabbing his hand - which he said was left fractured - and trying to "chuck me over his shoulder", with the momentum so great his feet "nearly came off the floor" and "went on tiptoe".
Mr Cator-Durrant told the inquest he received his Security Industry Authority badge 10 years earlier in 2007 and had previous experience restraining people at pubs and clubs and once before at Pontins.
He said during the incident on Valentine's Day 2017 he and Mr Reynolds were "kind of taken...fell to the floor", adding that the method of restraint, known in the industry as a "worst-case scenario", was "not planned".
"I was thinking if we’re going to go down, I need to go down as safely as I can with him," said the Pontins worker, who received monthly first aid training from the park.
The Pontins worker told the coroner Mr Reynolds "had hold of my left hand over his left shoulder", and said he could see how it might look from CCTV that he was on top of him. But he added: "I'd say I was over him, not on top of him."
Mr Cator-Durrant said "minimal pressure" was applied and said he did not recall him or anyone else putting a knee on the dad-of-three.
Facing a suggestion from Ms Bennett's lawyer that the CCTV appears to show him "swinging his arm towards (Mr Reynolds' neck)", he disagreed and told the coroner: "At no time did I put my arm around his neck."
"He might have been pulling it there, I don’t believe it (my forearm) was around his neck," he added.
Thursday's hearing was also told by Mr Cator-Durrant that Mr Reynolds, once in a "prone" position with three staff members pinning him face down to the ground with his head out to the side, asked two or three times to be 'let go'.
Mr Cator-Durrant told the hearing he was aware of the restraint's risks and said Mr Reynolds' breathing was monitored closely. At no point was there any concern for Mr Reynolds' welfare, he added.
The inquest also heard a witness had approached the security officers to warn them Mr Reynolds had "gone purple".
Mr Cator-Durrant said he did not remember this.
When asked if he would have done anything differently, the security worker said he felt he could not have prevented what happened and added: "He was still alive and breathing when he left our care."
He said as soon as police arrived, Mr Reynolds appeared to pretend to be asleep and made snoring noises.
The hearing was previously told that police stopped their van “when they noticed Mr Reynolds being unwell”.
They performed CPR until paramedics arrived and took him to hospital, where he died on February 16.
The inquest, heard before a jury, continues.