Police officer who killed himself as he awaited trial for alleged assault on teen after Barnsley and Sheffield Wednesday football match ‘had received death threats and feared for his safety,’ mother tells inquest

  • William Sampson, 27, was found dead at home in Sheffield weeks before his trial
  • READ MORE: Police officer who was caught on camera hitting 16-year-old Sheffield Wednesday fan on the head with a baton is found dead at home

A police officer who killed himself while he waited to go on trial for the alleged assault of a teenage football fan had received death threats and feared for his safety, his mother has said. 

PC William Sampson, 27, was charged with assaulting a 16-year-old boy after a football match between Barnsley and Sheffield Wednesday in 2020.

Shocking footage from the incident was shared on social media showing him lunging towards the boy with his baton in the air and striking him on the top of his head.

PC Sampson, known as Billy, was due to go on trial last March after being charged with unlawful and malicious wounding, which he denied.

He was found at his terraced home in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, weeks before the trial, with his family saying that he had taken his life – with an inquest today agreeing and recording a verdict of suicide.

PC Sampson is pictured with his mother, Nicky. Mrs Sampson told the court how her son was targeted following his arrest in relation to the video of the alleged assault

An inquest into PC Sampson’s death on heard how he had suffered with anxiety and depression after his arrest.

But, the officer had been heartened after he received an expert’s report which concluded the force he used in the incident was ‘justified and proportionate’. 

Then, the coroner was told how, the day before he was found dead, the officer had been told he was to be charged in relation to an unrelated domestic matter. 

His mother, Nicky Sampson, told the inquest at Sheffield Coroner’s Court that this allegation was not true. 

Mrs Sampson told the court how her son was targeted following his arrest in relation to the video, which was posted on social media in February 2020 along with details of where he lived. 

She said: ‘He got death threats. He came to talk to me and he explained how incredibly scared he was.’ 

The court heard how one online blogger in particular targeted the officer. Mrs Sampson said her son had to install an expensive CCTV system and high fences at his home. 

‘He did share his fear of someone attacking him and his partner in his house,’ she said. 

Shocking footage from the incident was shared on social media shows PC Sampson lunging towards the boy with his baton in the air and striking him on the top of his head

The footage shows the officer talking to the boy as he sits on the ground after receiving the blow 

Graphic photographs later showed a nasty gash, over an inch long, on the boy’s head 

‘He got CCTV installed but still felt extremely vulnerable in his home.’ Mrs Sampson said the coverage of the football match incident ‘did not tell the full story of what happened’. 

Detective Inspector Richard Armstrong, of South Yorkshire Police (SYP), described how he was appointed as the welfare officer to support PC Sampson after he was arrested in 2020. 

Mr Armstrong described how PC Sampson thought he would be cleared at his trial, especially after the expert report on his use of force was finally obtained from the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), which commissioned it. 

But he said that when he told the officer he was going to be charged with coercive and controlling behaviour in February last year he was ‘shocked and surprised and clearly angry about the decision’. 

Mr Armstrong said that, despite this, he said he did not pick up any ‘red flags’ and PC Sampson told him: ‘I will just fight this at court as well.’ 

The court heard that PC Sampson was found unresponsive at his house in Chapeltown, Sheffield, the next day, February 11, by his friend and fellow police officer Phil Mackey, and was later pronounced dead. 

A post-mortem examination found he had overdosed on drugs which had been prescribed to him. In a statement read to the court, Mr Mackey said his friend’s arrest and charge over the football match incident ‘had a massive impact on Billy’s mental health’. 

PC William Sampson, pictured arriving at Leeds Magistrates’ Court in December 2020

Recording a verdict of suicide, assistant coroner Katy Dickinson concluded that PC Sampson ‘suffered with his mental health due to allegations against him’. 

She said: ‘That caused him distress and is likely the reason behind his death.’ 

The coroner added: ‘What a fine man he was.’ 

Ms Dickinson said she had been considering making recommendations about the training of welfare officers supporting officers facing allegations but she was reassured by evidence from Detective Superintendent Delphine Waring, the head of professional standards at SYP. 

Ms Waring told the coroner about how training to support officers under investigation was developing and SYP’s approach was leading the way among forces across the country. 

The court heard how PC Sampson had always wanted to be a police officer, joining as a special when he was 19, before successfully applying as a regular officer. 

His mother said he wanted to be in traffic but never got the chance. 

She said he passed his sergeants’ exams while he was waiting for his trial and was once commended by a coroner for the support he gave after a suicide. 

Mrs Sampson said: ‘He just didn’t deserve for this to happen to him. ‘All he ever wanted to be was be a police officer and help others.’ 

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