The mother of a mixed-raced teenager who died after being hit by a van has blasted police for giving her a ‘racist’ codeword to gain access to his hospital room.
Angela Lewcock was told to use the password ‘banana’ to visit her son Sheldon, 19, after he was mowed down while cycling with friends in Tilehurst, Reading, last August.
Thames Valley Police said its professional standards department was looking into the word after community leaders said it was ‘inappropriate’ because of 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.’
Yvonne Yew, editor-in-chief of the Caribbean Express News in Reading, agreed, calling the term “inappropriate.”
‘It indicates that the person must be black and of color, and normally you would associate bananas with a monkey,’ she added. That’s the impression I got.
‘I was shocked to learn that was the password.
‘This is a serious situation. It may only appear to be one word, but it has had a significant impact on this family and the community as a whole.’
Sheldon, also known as Shelly, was severely injured in 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.
‘We are conducting an investigation into the password that was used at the hospital,’ the police said in a statement.
‘We have referred this to our professional standards department.’
Sheldon had a “amazing personality” and a “wicked sense of humour,” according to Mrs. Lewcock.
He had a ‘heart of gold,’ she said, and ‘wouldn’t hurt anybody’. He and his friends used to ride their bikes to Sulham Woods on a regular basis because they had built wooden ramps there, she explained.
Thames Valley Police confirmed that an 18-year-old man has been charged with failing to report an incident and driving without insurance, while the force’s serious collision investigation unit is still looking into the matter.
The force added: ‘Sheldon’s family continue to be supported by family liaison officers and are regularly updated on the investigation.’