Handcuffing obese suspects 'a recipe for disaster,' expert says

Police should have been aware of the dangers of handcuffing an obese man who later died in custody, says a medical expert.

Dangers of positional asphyxia well known, says university professor Donna Wilson

Trevor Proudman (right) died after he stopped breathing while handcuffed in a police van. (Supplied)

Police should have been aware of the dangers of handcuffing an obese man who died after being taken into custody, says a medical expert.

“Many research studies have pointed out … tying the hands behind the back, particularly if you're obese is probably going to put you into trouble and quite quickly,” said University of Alberta professor Donna Wilson.

Trevor Proudman, 32, lived with Prader-Willi Syndrome which left him mentally disabled and obese.

Last week he was found unconscious in a police van and unable to breathe. He died in hospital.

“Someone with this syndrome where they typically are weak, they don't breathe well, they have breathing problems, muscle problems, that's a recipe for disaster,” Wilson said.

The dangers of positional asphyxia are well known, she said.

Police chief Rod Knecht won't discuss the case while it's the focus of an internal investigation. But he said officers now carry two sets of handcuffs for cases such as this.

“We can link the two handcuffs together so you get that expanded accessibility,” he said.

Wilson said that's still not enough.

“If you're going to do that, never leave the person alone,” she advised.

The medical examiner is waiting for the results of toxicology tests before releasing the cause of death.