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A codeword used by police to give a family access to a dying son in hospital was racist, says his mother.

Sheldon Lewcock was hit by a van in Tilehurst, Reading, in August 2022.

While the 19-year-old – who was mixed race – was in hospital police gave his mother the codeword “banana” for when she wanted to visit.

Thames Valley Police said its professional standards department was investigating the use of the word.

Pierce's Hill

Mr Lewcock, who died five days after the incident, was part of a large family and very close to his mother Angela.

She told the BBC her son was affectionally known as “Shelly” and described his “amazing personality” and “wicked sense of humour”.

“He had a heart of gold, wouldn’t hurt anybody, always out on his bike… they’d go to Sulham Woods a lot because they’d made wooden ramps,” Mrs Lewcock said.

“That’s where they were that day.”

Sheldon Lewcock

Family handout

Mr Lewcock suffered catastrophic injuries on Pierce’s Hill, Tilehurst, while he was out with his friends on their bikes.

Despite that he still managed to call his mum.

“My phone rang and it was Sheldon,” Mrs Lewcock said. “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.”

Angela and Sheldon Lewcock

Family handout

When she arrived at the scene she sat with him as he lay on the ground and held his hand while paramedics tried to keep him alive.

Mr Lewcock was airlifted to hospital and his family were with him when he was put into an induced coma.

They were given a special codeword to get access to his room.

She said: “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

Yvonne Yew, editor-in-chief of Reading’s Caribbean Express News, said: “The password banana is inappropriate.

“It indicates that the person has to be black and of colour, and normally you would associate bananas with a monkey. That’s the association that I got.

“I was horrified when I heard that was the password.

“It’s a serious matter. It might only seem like one word but it’s one word that has affected this family and the community as a whole.”

In a statement, Thames Valley Police said: “We are conducting an investigation into the password which was used at the hospital. This has been referred to our professional standards department.”

An 18-year-old man has been charged with failing to report an accident and driving without insurance.

Thames Valley Police confirmed its serious collision investigation unit was continuing its inquiries into the crash.

“Sheldon’s family continue to be supported by family liaison officers and are regularly updated on the investigation,” it added.

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Source: BBC

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