Shocking footage obtained by The Mail on Sunday shows how police officers violently dragged a grieving father from the hospital bedside of his dying daughter shortly after he had been told her life support was being withdrawn.
The harrowing film from a police body camera shows the moment Rashid Abbasi, a 59-year-old hospital consultant, was wrenched away from his critically ill six-year-old daughter by an officer holding his neck.
Mr Abbasi, who has worked in the NHS for more than 30 years, had his legs and ankles strapped together and was wheeled away from his daughter Zainab on a trolley. His wife Aliya, a former doctor, was grabbed from behind, pulled from the bedside and fell backwards on to the floor of the hospital ward screaming.
The disturbing incident took place in a hospital in the North of England that the MoS cannot name for legal reasons. It came after the parents were involved in a protracted dispute with doctors over the care of their critically ill daughter. Medics insisted Zainab should be allowed to die but Mr and Mrs Abbasi fought for further treatment that they were convinced would keep her alive.
In a bedside vigil with his wife Aliya and another relative, Rashid is gently stroking his dying daughter’s arm when police enter the ward
After several requests for them to leave six-year-old Zainab are calmly refused, Aliya finally stands up to plead with officers for compassion, as captured by the body camera
Aliya turns to the tallest of the officers to beg for empathy for her grief, asking: ‘Do you have children?’ He says yes
Police were called to Zainab’s bedside after a complaint about Mr Abbasi’s behaviour.
The MoS can also reveal how:The distressing footage shows that, as Mr Abbasi was arrested, a female police officer shouted: ‘You’re acting like an animal, it’s disgusting’;Officers repeatedly refused to retrieve emergency medication from his pocket, despite his cries that he was suffering chest pains;He says he was later told that he had suffered a heart attack and underwent a heart procedure the following day;Mr and Mrs Abbasi fought a three-week legal battle against hospital bosses to overturn draconian reporting restrictions that prevented them telling their story;Mr Abbasi has begun proceedings to sue police for wrongful arrest;In their first newspaper interview, the couple last night condemned the ‘brutal’ and ‘callous’ way they were treated by police.
The episode shines a spotlight on how the NHS handles sensitive cases when parents disagree with medics’ decisions to withdraw their child’s life support. It follows the traumatic cases of Alfie Evans and Charlie Gard, terminally ill children whose parents fought long legal battles over their care.
Rashid and Aliya Abbasi’s daughter Zainab suffered from respiratory problems and a rare genetic illness called Niemann-Pick disease, which meant she was likely to die during childhood.
The couple clashed with Zainab’s doctors for years over her treatment. They say that on two previous occasions when Zainab was critically ill they had successfully argued for her to be treated with steroids instead of having life support withdrawn, and were proved correct when her condition improved.
The stand-off escalates in a dramatic and troubling instant, as two of the officers grab Aliya from behind and drag her away from the bedside
l Meanwhile the other two officers manhandle a visibly distraught Rashid away from the bed while still in his chair
The officers physically struggle with the agitated father, grappling with his flailing arms in a bid to restrain him
After her admission to hospital last July, Mr and Mrs Abbasi believed that, while their daughter was dangerously ill, she could survive with the right care.
But on August 19, doctors told the Abbasis that Zainab was dying. An audio recording reveals how one doctor told them that ‘the next steps would involve taking her off the ventilator’. Rashid and Aliya pleaded for further tests, but one of the doctors refused, saying the process of moving Zainab on to palliative care needed to start ‘straight away’. Rashid told them they would have to get a court order to do so.
Urged again to carry out more tests, the doctor replied ‘We are not going to be doing any more going round in circles’, adding: ‘You will never come to terms with this.’
The medics then attempted to hand the couple a letter restricting Mr Abbasi’s visiting hours amid claims that staff felt ‘threatened and intimidated’ by him.
Mr Abbasi, a respiratory expert who works at a different hospital, stormed out of the meeting but hospital staff then called police, claiming he pushed a senior doctor who attempted to prevent him returning to his daughter’s bedside. Half an hour later, four police officers and two security guards gathered at Zainab’s bedside where the devastated Abbasis and one of their sons were quietly comforting her.
Aliya, held back by the female officer and another man, helplessly witnesses her husband’s distress
Amid the struggle, Rashid yells that he has chest pains, but is told: ‘You’ve brought this on yourself'
His energy depleted, Rashid is finally subdued. As he lies prone and groaning on the hospital floor, he is handcuffed
The bodycam footage shows how officers asked on a number of occasions for Mr Abbasi to leave his daughter’s bedside and talk to them outside the ward but he refused.
Mrs Abbasi suggested the officers talk to her husband at the bedside. She pleaded with them to show ‘compassion’, saying: ‘We were just informed they were going to take the tube out of our daughter.’
But after just over five minutes, an officer gave Mr Abbasi a final warning before wrenching him away from his daughter. One officer held his neck as he was dragged in his chair away from the bedside, the footage shows.
After being forced on to the floor, Mr Abbasi, who suffers from serious heart problems, complained of ‘chest pain’, only to be told: ‘You’ve brought this on yourself.’
The officers are seen claiming that Mr Abbasi kicked and bit them during the struggle. Mr Abbasi denies the claims.
Mr Abbasi told the MoS: ‘The pictures speak for themselves. They behaved like barbarians. They were not prepared to listen. My daughter was given a death sentence half an hour before they arrived.’
Mr Abbasi was taken to accident and emergency, where officers later de-arrested him. He said he was told he had suffered a heart attack and the next day he underwent an emergency angioplasty.
Following the incident, the NHS trust applied to the High Court for permission to take Zainab off the ventilator, but on September 16, just three days before the hearing was due to start, Zainab died.
On Friday Mrs and Mrs Abbasi won a legal battle to partially lift reporting restrictions.
Andrea Williams of the Christian Legal Centre, which is helping the couple, said: ‘The family showed extraordinary restraint in the face of brutal treatment. They genuinely feared that their only daughter was about to die.’
The officers bundle him on to a trolley, binding his legs around the ankles and thighs as he continues to cry out about chest pains, demanding his medication
‘You are acting like an animal,’ the female officer berates Rashid, firmly adding: ‘Your behaviour in front of your child is disgusting’
The hospital said: ‘When there is a risk to the safety of any of the patients in our care, to relatives, visitors or to our staff – or interference with the delivery of care and treatment – it is necessary for us to seek help from the police. This is never taken lightly. It is essential we maintain a safe and secure environment, particularly where we are caring for very sick and vulnerable patients.’
The police force involved, which the MoS cannot name for legal reasons, said its officers responded to a call ‘of a man being violent and abusive towards staff and that he had assaulted a consultant’.
They added: ‘While we recognised this was a very distressing time for him and his family, our duty was to ensure the safety of all those present.’ They confirmed Mr Abbasi was arrested on suspicion of breach of the peace and assaulting police officers, and that one officer was treated in A&E. The force added: ‘Due to the nature of the incident, it was necessary to detain the man and when he complained of feeling unwell he was taken for treatment as soon as possible.’
The force said they had reviewed the footage and that it ‘sets out a very different picture to the limited version of events which have been presented to us’.
How police 'brutally' intruded into a grieving family's sombre vigil just 30 minutes after the parents were told their daughter, 6, was being taken off her life support machine
Between crisp white hospital sheets lies a little girl in a pink nightdress, a dark bundle of glossy black hair splaying out behind her on a well plumped pillow. Her father is at her side, tenderly stroking her right arm as her mother watches. Just 30 minutes earlier, parents Rashid and Aliya Abbasi had been told the time had come for six-year-old Zainab to die.
Yet within moments their tragic bedside vigil turns into a violent clash with police, who at one point are filmed with their hands around Rashid’s neck. He is dragged away from his dying daughter, in handcuffs and with his legs and ankles strapped together, as a female officer snarls into his face: ‘You’re acting like an animal, it’s disgusting.’
Video footage from a police bodycam shows that the scene when officers arrived at the hospital ward is sombre and calm. Rashid and Aliya appear to be quietly coming to terms with the devastating news that doctors believe their beloved daughter, who has been critically ill in hospital for three weeks, is dying and should be removed from her ventilator.
Rashid is sitting hunched forward in a blue hospital chair beside the bank of machinery keeping Zainab alive. A curtain is drawn back as the couple, who were accompanied by one of their sons, feel no need to seek privacy.
Aliya, towards the foot of the bed, seems too exhausted to be scared – or even surprised –when she sees the police officers, three male and one female, approaching. One of the men asks Rashid: ‘May I have a quick word with you, Sir? Not here, if you could just come outside.’ Rashid replies quietly: ‘No, I don’t want to leave my daughter: my daughter is dying.’
When the PC repeats his request, Aliya starts to explain, believing the officers are unaware of the distressing news which has just been delivered. ‘We have just been told, about half an hour ago, that they are going to take the tube out and our daughter is going to die so, to be honest…’ Her voice tails off as she struggles to articulate her distress.
Aliya invites the officers to sit with them at the bedside, saying: ‘You’re welcome to drag up a chair and just sit here and talk to us.’ The couple show no signs of refusing to co-operate, but they do not wish to leave their child.
Rashid is sitting hunched forward in a blue hospital chair beside the bank of machinery keeping Zainab alive. A curtain is drawn back as the couple, who were accompanied by one of their sons, feel no need to seek privacy
Rashid is told by an officer his behaviour is ‘of some concern’. He responds: ‘This is a lie.’
‘Was Friday a lie as well, about your behaviour, which is why the police were called?’ the officer asks, making the exchange more confrontational, while repeating requests to take the conversation outside.
His colleague, tall with a shaven head, steps past Aliya to take up a position behind Rashid. He appears to repeat a scripted request for co-operation: ‘Is there anything I can reasonably say or do to get you to listen to what I am saying and comply with what I am asking you to do?’
Neither parent has yet raised their voice or stood up. Aliya again tries to explain their desperation: ‘They are going to take the tube out of our daughter, she is going to die… she is on a ventilator’ but her words are cut off by the officer.
A nurse in a navy uniform puts her own hand protectively on Zainab, just inches from where the father is still gently holding his daughter’s arm.
As the police continue to insist the parents leave their daughter’s bedside, Aliya again pleads: ‘My daughter is dying on a ventilator, I don’t think you quite understand…’
The officers again ask Rashid to stand up and come with them, this time raising the spectre of arrest if he doesn’t comply with their request. Aliya then stands up and pleads with a hospital consultant on the ward: ‘Is this what you guys want?’
The nurse, who by this point has been joined by a colleague, then tells Rashid that if he’s arrested, instead of returning to his hospital accommodation he will lose immediate access to his daughter: ‘You’ll not be close to her,’ she says.
Her words are intended as an act of kindness but they seem to encourage a more forceful attitude from the tall male officer who emphasises: ‘There’s accommodation up by Accident and Emergency that’s a lot closer than the police station where he won’t be able to leave, so perhaps you should consider that before making your decision.’
Aliya begs for them both to be allowed to stay, not to waste a moment of their remaining time together. ‘When someone has got hours… we look after her 24 hours, 24 hours a day.’
Aliya begs for them both to be allowed to stay, not to waste a moment of their remaining time together. ‘When someone has got hours… we look after her 24 hours, 24 hours a day’
She appeals to the tall male officer to empathise and feel her grief for a moment. ‘Do you have children?’ she asks. He says he does, but then checks himself and adds: ‘Not that it’s relevant here.’ Now the female officer steps in, telling Aliya what’s best for her dying child. ‘What is best for your daughter is not to have this kind of confrontation around her. She is in the best care, in the best place.’
Aliya responds: ‘She’s not, she’s not.’ But the female officer, clearly disgruntled at being challenged, insists: ‘Yes she is, yes she is,’ jabbing the air in front of her. When Aliya defends herself the female officer begins to lecture her: ‘You’re incorrect. The top and bottom of this is this environment you are putting your daughter in isn’t appropriate… Your husband is creating an issue.’
Aliya pleads for understanding: ‘Were you told that half an hour ago [a doctor] informed us that they were going to take the tube out?’ Her voice, so calm until this point, starts to catch with emotion.
But the female officer says bluntly: ‘Yes but they are not doing it right now!’ prompting the desperate mother to ask: ‘Do you know what compassion is?’
Her appeal gets her nowhere, as the female officer tells her