Mother condemns ‘racist’ police after officers gave family the codeword ‘banana’ to visit mixed race son, 19, as he lay dying in hospital
- Sheldon Lewcock, 19, was struck by a van while out cycling with friends last year
- Thames Valley Police’s professional standards department is probing codeword
The mother of a mixed-raced teenager with ‘a heart of gold’ who died after being struck by a van has blasted police for giving her a ‘racist’ codeword to access his hospital room.
Angela Lewcock was told to use the password ‘banana’ to visit her son Sheldon, 19, after he was mowed down in Tilehurst, Reading, while out cycling with friends last August.
Thames Valley Police said its professional standards department was investigating after community leaders said the word was ‘inappropriate’ due to the fruit’s association with monkeys.
Ms Lewcock told the BBC: ‘To visit my son he had a password, which was banana, which I didn’t really think much of it at the time and it wasn’t until after I realised that it was probably a racist comment. It’s disgusting.’
Angela Lewcock said her son Sheldon (pictured together) had an ‘amazing personality’ and a ‘wicked sense of humour’
Angela Lewcock was told to use the password ‘banana’ to visit her son Sheldon (pictured), 19, after he was mowed down in Tilehurst, Reading, while out cycling with friends last August
Yvonne Yew, editor-in-chief of Reading’s Caribbean Express News, agreed, branding the word ‘inappropriate.’
She added: ‘It indicates that the person has to be black and of colour, and normally you would associate bananas with a monkey. That’s the association that I got.
‘I was horrified when I heard that was the password.
‘It’s a serious matter. It might only seem like one word but it’s one word that has affected this family and the community as a whole.’
Sheldon, affectionately known as Shelly, suffered catastrophic injuries following the collision on Pierce’s Hill, but was still able to facetime his mother.
Mrs Lewcock recalled: ‘My phone rang and it was Sheldon. He repeatedly said my name, ”Mum. Mum. Mum.”
‘By then, I’m asking Sheldon, ‘What’s up?’ The phone went dead and within about 10 seconds I had a FaceTime call from Sheldon… he had blood all over his face.’
She rushed to the scene and sat with him as paramedics tried to keep him alive, before he was airlifted to hospital and placed into an induced coma.
Thames Valley Police gave the family the ‘banana’ password so they could visit him.
The force said in a statement: ‘We are conducting an investigation into the password which was used at the hospital.
‘This has been referred to our professional standards department.’
Mrs Lewcock said Sheldon had an ‘amazing personality’ and a ‘wicked sense of humour’.
She added that he had a ‘heart of gold’ and ‘wouldn’t hurt anybody’. He and his friends rode their bikes to Sulham Woods regularly because they had set up wooden ramps there, she said.
Thames Valley Police confirmed that an 18-year-old man has been charged with failing to report an incident and driving without insurance, while its serious collision investigation unit continues its enquiries.
The force added: ‘Sheldon’s family continue to be supported by family liaison officers and are regularly updated on the investigation.’
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