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Apology plea after police hold ‘Buddhist monk’

April 2, 2009

From The Camden News

Buddhists at a West Hampstead commune are demanding a formal apology from police after their Good Samaritan landlord was arrested and “sectioned” – only to be released three days later without charge.

Officers in riot gear stormed a basement flat in Sumatra Road – known as the Bamiyan Coelestial Void by its occupants – apprehending 71-year-old academic Redwood Fryxell and an elderly lodger identified as a psychiatric absconder.

Witnesses said between 30 and 40 officers in six police cars and five police vans attended the scene on Friday afternoon, acting on a warrant to remove the second man under the Mental Health Act.

Mr Fryxell, a self-styled Buddhist monk and former mental health patient who has sheltered homeless and vulnerable people in his flat for 25 years, was arrested several hours later and “taken to a place of safety for assessment” for spitting at a police vehicle.

He was held at Highgate Mental Health Centre until his carer successfully lobbied for his release on Monday.

Speaking to the New Journal immediately after his ordeal, Mr Fryxell said: “I was astonished to see so many police. I’m just here to offer refuge to people. I can’t see how this sort of treatment can be conducive to mental health. If I was at least a psychopath it would be understandable, but I’m trying to do something out of the ordinary for good. Shame on them.”
Peter Sawyer, a fellow Buddhist who acts as Mr Fryxell’s full-time carer, said: “I would like a formal apology from the police. He’s a harmless old man. He was taken off the [mental health] section four years ago and there have been no problems whatsoever. He has slowly put his life back together through Buddhism.”

Because of past experiences, Mr Fryxell would not open the door or speak to police or psychiatrists, Mr Sawyer said. He estimated the raid had caused more than £1,000 worth of damage.

A police spokesman said officers had “used force to secure entry” after being denied access by the occupants.

One of the males had exhibited “unpredictable” behaviour and had begun spitting at police, he added.

The press official added: “After an assessment of the situation and to prevent injury to any of the officers or medical staff, it was clearly too dangerous for officers at the scene to enter the premises themselves.
“As a result, officers from the Met’s Territorial Support Group were called. They are trained to deal with such situations and are equipped to minimise the risk of injury to themselves and others.

“Only a small number of officers were used to enter the premises. The officers who entered wore protective safety equipment as they were venturing into a potentially dangerous and unknown situation.”

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