POLICE in Oxfordshire have been criticised after providing potentially false information about how many people have died in their custody since 2013.

Thames Valley Police initially claimed it ‘held no information’ on how many people had died in its custody in any of the past five years, then insisted this was because no one had.

However the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is currently investigating four TVP officers after a man died from a heart attack in a police van in November.

In a Freedom of Information request, the Oxford Mail asked the force ‘how many people had died in custody of TVP in Oxfordshire’ since 2013.

A month later the force responded that it 'held no information regarding the request'.

After further questions, the force clarified the response, writing: “The force holds no information as no one has died in police custody in Oxfordshire (since 2013).”

Yet the truth of that claim is thrown into question by the death of 25-year-old Nuno Cardoso in the early hours of November 24.

Mr Cardoso, from Headington, was being taken to Abingdon in a police van following an arrest for assault when he suffered a cardiac arrest. The drivers pulled into Redbridge Park and Ride and he was taken to the John Radcliffe where he was pronounced dead.

A TVP spokesperson said: “This incident did not occur in a custody suite, it occurred in a van.”

But a 2018 report by the IOPC – previously known as the Independent Police Complaints Commission – defines ‘deaths in police custody’ as including 'deaths that happen while a person is being arrested or taken into detention… The death may have taken place on police, private or medical premises, in a public place, or in a police or other vehicle'.

National campaign group Inquest, which describes itself as 'the only charity providing expertise on state related deaths and their investigation', said the force's response to the Oxford Mail was 'alarming'.

Charity director Deborah Coles said: “Transparency is essential in establishing truth, justice and accountability following the fatal use of force.

“Previous deaths in the custody of TVP have caused significant community disquiet, which makes this omission all the more concerning.”

The charity says 1,660 people have died in police custody in England and Wales since 1990 - including 20 people who have died in TVP custody since 2008.

Meanwhile, a report published two weeks ago raised concerns about ‘serious safety issues and significant risks to detainees’ in TVP custody.