TWO Gwent police officers who assisted a deaf man who fell ill in the street and later died failed to exercise a proper duty of care to him, the Independent Police Complaints Commission found.

An Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation found the two officers who attended to Anthony Lewis, 52, on October 20 last year, should not have left him alone at his Newport home without ensuring a friend or relative had been informed or seeking medical aid for him themselves.

An inquest into Mr Lewis' death held yesterday at Gwent Coroners court in Newport recorded an open verdict.

The first officer to come to Mr Lewis’ aid was given a written warning by Gwent Police as he took lead responsibility for how Mr Lewis was dealt with, the IPCC said.

The second officer who drove Mr Lewis home in a police van received management advice.

IPCC Commissioner for Wales Tom Davies said: "Mr Lewis was described as deaf and also had speech difficulties and therefore relied on lip-reading and sign-language to communicate.

"This made the two officers' task in establishing what was wrong more difficult, but meant they should have done more to ensure Mr Lewis received appropriate care and support.”

Gwent Police has now issued guidance to all front-line officers in how they should deal with vulnerable people.

An inquest into Mr Lewis’ death heard he was found clinging to a lamp post in Jeffrey Street, Newport, by his friend Mark Williams on October 20, 2009, complaining of leg problems.

The hearing was told Mr Williams flagged down a passing police car driven by PC Simon Richens who asked Mr Lewis if he wanted to go to hospital, to which he replied no.

He then decided to take him home and called for assistance.

PC Richens helped PC David James and Mr Williams carry Mr Lewis into a police van before he was driven to his Rudry Street home.

The court heard PC Richens checked Mr Lewis’ mobile phone for a family contact number but could not find one.

He then asked Mr Lewis if he was OK, explained he was leaving and gave him a thumbs up, a gesture which Mr Lewis repeated.

Two weeks later on November 3, Mr Lewis was found dead in his arm chair by his mum Dorothy Lewis.

A definite cause of death could not be established due to the condition of the body but a statement from pathologist Dr Andrew Davies said that without evidence of injury or foul play, death was most likely through natural causes caused by heart disease.

'Uncertain' if death was preventable

Recording an open verdict, Gwent Coroner David Bowen said he could not be sure that Mr Lewis' death would have been prevented had police taken him to hospital.

He said that while he had little doubt the officers acted with good intentions, it was not admirable to leave a person in those circumstances alone and unattended, at least until a friend or family member had been alerted, especially when that person was vulnerable.