The police watchdog has said a Met officer failed to properly search a man who died in police custody after choking on a package of drugs.

On Thursday (January 18), an inquest at East London Coroners’ Court found that 38-year-old Andrzej Kusper died as a result of a “foreign body airway obstruction”.

He had been stopped in Leasowes Road, Leyton, just after 5.30pm on September 4, 2021, by two plain clothes police officers on suspicion of drug possession.

An officer found a small package containing a white substance and subsequently arrested him on suspicion of possessing a class A drug.

When putting Mr Kusper into the back of a police van, an officer noticed Mr Kusper putting his hand in his pocket.

The officer then searched Mr Kusper inside the police van but missed the 38-year-old putting his hand to his mouth, and didn’t find anything.

After the van doors were closed, the van CCTV footage showed that a bulge appeared in Mr Kusper’s cheek. The officer didn’t see this during the journey to Leyton Custody Centre.

After arriving at the custody centre, officers noticed that Mr Kusper had something in his mouth and asked him to open it. When the officers saw something, they instructed him to spit it out.

Officers took Mr Kusper down to the floor where he became unresponsive and the London Ambulance Service was called, while officers provided CPR.

Mr Kusper was pronounced dead at the custody suite shortly after 8pm.

An inquest jury found that “incomplete and unsatisfactory” police searches of Mr Kusper probably caused or contributed to his death.

It also found that Mr Kusper’s own actions contributed to his death, by failing to mention the package during the search, putting the item in his mouth in the van and keeping it hidden in his mouth at the custody suite.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) determined that the officer who searched Mr Kusper should face a misconduct hearing in November 2022.

The watchdog’s probe said that the officer had failed to adequately search Mr Kusper following his arrest or to properly monitor him during his transport to custody. 

A Metropolitan Police misconduct hearing found that misconduct was not proven, and decided that the officer should go through the reflective practice review process – effectively additional learning and training.

IOPC Regional Director Charmaine Arbouin said: “Our thoughts are with Andrzej Kusper’s family, loved ones, and everyone affected by his death.”

She added: “This incident shows the importance of carrying out thorough searches of detainees being taken to custody and actively monitoring those being transported to custody.”

Commander Paul Trevers said that the Met would be writing to Mr Kusper’s family and friends “to express our sincere condolences”.

He added that the force will study the jury’s findings and recommendations “to consider what else we need to do”.

Monica Kusper, Andrzej’s sister, said: “Andrzej and I were very close; he meant the world to me and was the first one I ran to when I needed to talk.

"He was a genuine and kind-hearted man, who was very funny and generous.

“We, his family, have been deeply traumatised by his death. It has left a giant hole in my mum’s heart that she will not be able to fill.

"Andrzej leaves behind his young daughter who he loved and cherished."

She added: “Andrzej had his troubles, but he was trying to create a better life for himself.

"All we can hope now is that by speaking out improvements are made so other families don’t have to face the pain we now have to endure.”