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Scotland Yard has been forced into a humiliating reversal of a decision to allow the retirement of an officer accused of covering up the maltreatment of a a mentally ill musician who died on the floor of a police station.

The force said yesterday that it was suspending PC Andrew Birks on the eve of his departure from the force following a legal challenge by the family of Sean Rigg, who died in 2008 after being arrested and physically restrained by four police officers. The officers were accused at an inquest of placing the handcuffed Mr Rigg face down in a small caged foot well of a police van with his legs bent back.

The decision is the latest twist in a six-year saga that has exposed failures to properly investigate the death by the police watchdog and fresh controversy over the ability of the service to hold officers to account for alleged wrongdoing.

It emerged that the force accepted the resignation of PC Birks on 12 April while legal delays prevented the start of a new investigation by the police watchdog into alleged gross misconduct. His retirement would have allowed him to avoid any disciplinary hearing.

READ MORE: FAMILY OF SEAN RIGG WELCOME REOPENING OF POLICE INVESTIGATION INTO DEATH