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South Yorkshire officer awaiting trial had received death threats

The PC was facing a trial over an alleged assault on a teenage football fan.

A PC who killed himself while awaiting trial for an alleged assault had received death threats and feared for his safety, his mother has said.

PC Billy Sampson, 27, was charged with assaulting a 16-year-old boy following a football match between Barnsley and Sheffield Wednesday after footage was shared on social media showing an officer hitting a fan with a baton.

An inquest into Mr Sampson’s death on Thursday heard how he had suffered with anxiety and depression after his arrest but had been heartened after he received an expert’s report which concluded the force he used in the incident was “justified and proportionate”.

Then, the day before he was found dead, the officer had been told he was to be charged in relation to an unrelated domestic matter.

His mother, Nicky Sampson, told the inquest at Sheffield Coroner’s Court that this allegation was not true.

She told the court how her son was targeted following his arrest in relation to the video, which was posted on social media in February 2020 along with details of where he lived.

She said: “He got death threats. He came to talk to me and he explained how incredibly scared he was.”

The court heard how one online blogger in particular targeted the officer.

Mrs Sampson said her son had to install an expensive CCTV system and high fences at his home.

“He did share his fear of someone attacking him and his partner in his house,” she said.

“He got CCTV installed but still felt extremely vulnerable in his home.”

South Yorkshire Detective Inspector Richard Armstrong had been appointed as the welfare officer to support PC Sampson after he was arrested in 2020.

DI Armstrong said that PC Sampson believed he would be cleared at trial – particularly in light of the expert report obtained from the IOPC which commissioned it.

However, he was “shocked and surprised and clearly angry about the decision” to charge him with coercive and controlling behaviour in February last year.  

In spite of this, DI Armstrong did not pick up any “red flags” and PC Sampson had said of the latter charge “I will fight this in court as well”.

The court heard that Mr Sampson was found unresponsive at his house in Chapeltown, Sheffield, the next day, February 11, by his friend and fellow police officer Phil Mackey, and was later pronounced dead.

A post-mortem examination found he had overdosed on drugs which had been prescribed to him.

In a statement read to the court, Mr Mackey said his friend’s arrest and charge over the football match incident “had a massive impact on Billy’s mental health”.

Recording a verdict of suicide, assistant coroner Katy Dickinson concluded that Mr Sampson “suffered with his mental health due to allegations against him”.

She said: “That caused him distress and is likely the reason behind his death.”

The coroner added: “What a fine man he was.”

Although Ms Dickinson had said she considered making recommendations about the training of welfare officers supporting those facing allegations – she was reassured by evidence from Det Supt Delphine Waring, head of professional standards at SYP.

The court heard how Mr Sampson had always wanted to be a police officer, joining as a special when he was 19, before successfully applying as a regular officer.

His mother said he wanted to be in traffic but never got the chance.

She said he passed his sergeants’ exams while he was waiting for his trial and was once commended by a coroner for the support he gave after a suicide.

You can call Samaritans for free on 116 123, email jo@samaritans.org or visit www.samaritans.org for more information. You can also text SHOUT to 85258. 

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