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Family's pain at death in custody.

Byline: By Lisa Hutchinson

The heart-broken family of a man who died in police custody today told how he got engaged only days before the tragedy.

Rugby player Malcolm Flockton had proposed to his girlfriend Sandra Stringer only five days before the incident.

He had taken Sandra, 44, his younger daughter Rachel, and Sandra's nine-year-old son James on a holiday to Lanzarote where they bought the ring.

On their return, Malcolm popped the question and took Sandra out for a meal celebrating their engagement.

But their happiness was to come to an abrupt end when he died in police custody days later on May 21.

The Police Complaints Authority has now launched an investigation into Malcolm's death.

His sister, Lorreen Butler, 45, of Battle Hill, North Tyneside, said: "Malcolm had his whole life ahead of him. He had just got engaged and was very happy.

"Then this happened - it is just a tragedy.

"He had some friends around at his house for a few drinks on the night it happened.

"He had gone to bed and said he felt sick. He got up and Sandra went to look for him.

"He had left the house, and Sandra went to look for him with her elder son Paul, who lives nearby. They were concerned for his safety.

"It was later they found he had gone to Jimmy's house - Sandra's ex-husband - and started to throw stones at the window.

"Jimmy rang the police who came out, but Malcolm caused a bit of a commotion which is totally out of character.

"He was never violent and everyone says he was such a placid person. This is the bit we can't understand.

"It was when the police took his handcuffs off him at Wallsend Police Station that he just turned blue and collapsed.

"The police tried to resuscitate him and the paramedics were brought in. He was taken to North Tyneside General Hospital where he was pronounced dead."

Lorreen added: "It's brought everything back to us because our dad died at the same age of heart disease.

"We don't know the exact cause of Malcolm's death, but it could be looking the same way."

Divorced Malcolm, 41, left two daughters, Sarah 15, and Rachel, 12.

The welder, of Garth 22, Killingworth, was a respected rugby player for Rockcliffe in the 70s, 80s and 90s and spent his latter playing years at North Shields Rugby Club.

Sportsmen from across the region are excepted to turn out in force for the funeral on Tuesday, at Tynemouth Crematorium.

Malcolm's mum, Betty Chicken, 67, of Edward Road, Wallsend, said: "Malcolm was a very placid person and we really miss him. He had just got engaged and had been on a wonderful holiday.

"He had everything in front of him, then his life was cut short.

"The police have been absolutely fantastic with us and we believe it is a tragic set of circumstances that could have happened at any time."

An inquest has been opened and adjourned to a later date.

A police spokesman said: "Northumbria Police offers its deepest sympathy to the family at this time.

"Malcolm's immediate family have been supported and updated throughout this investigation by a police-trained family liaison officer.

"The investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Malcolm is still ongoing under the supervision of the Police Complaints Authority and papers are being prepared for the attention of the North Tyneside Coroner."
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jun 28, 2003
Words:570
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