Tempers flared at a public meeting held to discuss the death of Luton three-year-old Mayah Shazad, as attendees demanded the suspension of police officers involved in the aftermath of the tragic incident.
More than 150 people attended the event held at Dallow Learning Community Centre on Monday night, organised by family and friends of Mayah to ‘get answers’ on the circumstances of her death.
The three-year-old was hit by a bus on Dunstable Road on Friday August 8– a spot which has since been adorned with touching floral tributes.
Members of Luton Borough Council, Beds Police and Arriva were invited to the meeting– though the bus company did not have a representative present.
Chairing the panel was Cllr Naseem Ayub, who was joined by council colleagues Colin Chick, director of regeneration, Cllr Hazel Simmons, council leader, and Cllr Dave Taylor, environment portfolio holder.
Superintendent David Boyle attended on behalf of Beds Police, while Mayah’s grandmother and uncle were joined by family solicitor Attiq Malik.
After initial statements from each panelist the floor was opened to members of the public who filled the community centre.
Allegations that police officers were heavy handed in their handling of witnesses and Mayah’s family in the minutes after the collision headed the discussion, with Spt Boyle questioned on the actions of his colleagues.
Spt Boyle said: “It is not acceptable for officers to use disproportionate force or to treat people with a lack of respect.
“I do not underestimate the challenges they had but that would be no excuse to use excessive force.
“Officers will be held to account for their behaviour.”
Spt Boyle added that the actions of officers were being investigated, but in the early stages “it does not appear they would meet the threshold for suspension”.
On the force’s relationship with Mayah’s family, Spt Boyle revealed that information from other witnesses had not been previously disclosed so as not to prejudice statements later made by the parents.
When quizzed on the reputation of Beds Police, in the aftermath of the Leon Briggs and Faruk Ali investigations, Spt Boyle said that there was work to be done.
He added: “It does worry me when members of the community say there is a lack of trust in the police.
“We want to maintain and build trust in the police.”
Several attendees expressed their frustration at the lack of an Arriva representative, with solicitor Attiq Malik lamenting that “they did not even give a statement to be read out.”
Arriva have since told Luton News that a written response to an invitation was sent to the family, notifying them that a representative would not be able to attend due to the ongoing police investigation.
Colin Chick and Cllr Dave Taylor were both questioned on the safety of Dunstable Road, amid confusion on the right of way for pedestrians.
Cllr Taylor said: “The current scheme has been in place for nine years and there has been a big improvement in the amount of road collisions.
“There are always dangers but we want to make it as safe as possible.”