Anthony Georgiou screamed for help and gasped after being put in a headlock by security contractors at a Bunnings warehouse.
He had stolen a gas cylinder and a saw blade from the shop in Frankston, Melbourne and contractors were trying to stop him from escaping.
“Help me, help me, let me go,” a witness heard Georgiou scream as he struggled with them on the ground.
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Despite his apparent desperation, loss prevention officers (LPOs) hired by the store’s subcontractors continued to hold the 31-year-old down. He fell unconscious and was taken to the hospital, where he died the same day.
A Victorian coroner has determined that Georgiou’s death in September 2016 would not have occurred had it not been restrained by contractors at Bunnings.
“There seems little doubt that Georgiou would have walked away from Bunnings that day had he not been involved in the fight,” coroner Darren Bracken said in his findings released Tuesday.
Forensic pathologist Heinrich Bouwer, who performed Georgiou’s autopsy, determined that his death was caused by complications with methylamphetamine use in an environment of physical restraint.
He said an examination put in a headlock at Bunnings caused injuries that prevented Georgiou’s breathing.
Security officials told the inquiry that they initially tried to get Georgiou to return the stolen property to the store, but he became aggressive and said “no shit” and walked away from them.
One of the officers said he grabbed Georgiou near the exit, told him he was under arrest and said, “Let’s just do it and come back with us,” but he was ignored.
He tried to grab Georgiou across the chest and put his leg behind him to bring him to the ground, but he was “so strong that when I grabbed him, he lifted me up”.
The two contractors said they used force to try to take him to the ground by putting him in a headlock, in violation of Bunnings’ code of conduct and training LPOs on how to deal with thieves.
But the coroner found the couple had never received a copy of the code and neither had attended the training.
The store’s manager witnessed the fight but did not intervene. He told the inquest Bunnings told him not to get involved with LPOs if they were dealing with stolen items.
“I’m not trained in security,” he said. “So I don’t know how the gentleman or the LPOs handle these situations and what’s right and what’s wrong.”
The coroner issued a number of recommendations for Bunnings, including training LPOs and store managers on how to handle customer confrontations.
He also urged the company to review LPO performance and keep records of all incidents in which they were involved.
Bunnings told the coroner that following issues that arose during the inquest, she took several actions, including updating her code of conduct to clarify when physical force can be used.
It has since updated its agreement with contractors as well.
Bunnings operations manager Ryan Baker told AAP the coroner’s recommendations were being reviewed in detail.
“We are aware of the findings of the Victorian Coroners Court on this matter and our thoughts are with Georgiou’s family at this time,” he said in a statement.
https://7news.com.au/news/court-justice/man-dies-after-being-placed-in-headlock-by-bunnings-security-staff-in-frankston-melbourne-c-8154187 Death at Bunnings Warehouse: Man dies after headlock by Bunnings security contractors