The cries of an Angolan deportee who later died after being restrained on a flight out of the UK were audible 15 rows away from his seat, a court has heard.
Jimmy Mubenga, 46, could be heard saying “I can’t breathe” to three G4S guards restraining him on the British Airways aircraft, passenger David Brown told the Old Bailey.
Guards Terrence Hughes, 53, of Portsmouth, Colin Kaler, 52 and Stuart Tribelnig, 39, are charged with the manslaughter of Mr Mubenga.
Hughes, Kaler, of Kempston, Beds, and Tribelnig, from Horley, Surrey, deny the charge against them.
Mr Brown told their trial he could still hear what was going on after being moved from economy class row 39, the same as Mr Mubenga, to the premium economy row 24 on the October 12, 2010 flight.
He told the court: ‘I could hear that things were still happening. I could still hear him saying “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe”.’
Mr Brown, who was en route to work in Angola, told the jury that after sitting down in his economy World Traveller seat he saw Mr Mubenga flanked by guards in the middle three seats of the Boeing 777. He said the Angolan national was on his knees with his hands tied behind his back.
Mr Brown said he heard the deportee scream and repeatedly say: ‘I can’t breathe, let me up.’
But Mr Mubenga was in such a position Mr Brown could not see his head, he told the court.
The businessman said that before he was moved he spoke to one of the guards, who told him: “He (Mubenga) is OK, once we take off he will be all right. He is on his way home.”
The defence questioned Mr Brown’s version of events, saying that he made two later statements about what had happened, and did not mention he had heard Mr Mubenga say anything from his seat further forward.
Mr Brown was asked whether he had read reports of what Mr Mubenga had said in newspapers after the event, and he insisted he had heard them at the time.
The trial has previously heard that at 8.20pm, the flight crew on the BA plane contacted the Heathrow control tower saying they had a ‘medical emergency’ as they were taxiing towards the runway.
Mr Mubenga was later pronounced dead in Hillingdon Hospital in west London.
He had been living in the UK for a number of years with his wife and children, the youngest of whom was a few months old, the court has heard.
Although being tearful before his departure and upset to leave his family behind, he had acknowledged that he had to go back and was ‘resigned’ to the situation, jurors have been told.