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A retired police officer who was allegedly punched in the head by Sheku Bayoh told the inquest into his death she believed he had shown ‘superhuman strength’ in lifting three other officers off the ground as he struggled against their restraint.

Nicole Short, who broke down in tears when asked to confirm her name at the start of the day, described being ‘overwhelmed with terror’ as the ‘creepy’ Bayoh walked towards her, fists up. lifted.

Bayoh died in handcuffs and suffered multiple injuries after officers responded to calls from the public about a knife-wielding man behaving erratically early on a Sunday morning in Kirkcaldy, Fife, in May 2015.

The independent inquest, led by Lord Bracadale and set in Edinburgh, is the result of years of campaigning by Bayoh’s family, who believe his death was caused by positional asphyxiation due to the tactics used by the police. They allege the officers overreacted and were motivated by racial bias.

Short, who was asked on Tuesday about previous statements in which she described the father-of-two as ‘deranged’, ‘determined to hurt someone’ and ‘a scary lunatic’, told Angela Grahame QC: ‘I had the sincere conviction that he was going to finish me off.

Sheku Bayoh investigation: ex-officer says he had “superhuman strength” |  Sheku Bayo
Nicole Short arrives at Capital House in Edinburgh for the public inquiry into the death of Sheku Bayoh. Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA

When asked if Bayoh seemed that way to him because he was black, Short replied, “Absolutely not.”

She said Bayoh walked away “completely unscathed” after being shot with CS spray and pepper spray by PC Craig Walker and former PC Alan Paton, the first officers to respond to the incident.

She described how she fired her stick at Bayoh who advanced on her with “a boxer’s leap”.

As he closed the distance between them, ‘instinct kicked in’ and she started running, she told the inquest. “I just remember feeling that almighty thump in the back of my head…I tried to stay up but couldn’t,” she said. Short, who is 5ft 1in and weighed 44kg (7th) at the time, said she “curled into a ball” on the floor.

She told the inquest that it was only later, when the officers involved in Bayoh’s arrest gathered in the staff canteen, that colleagues told her they believed she had been knocked out and that they had seen Bayoh “trap and kick” her. She herself had no memory of it.

Short was guided by statements from medical examiners who found no bruises on his torso and did not diagnose a concussion. She described seeking medical advice in the following days with concerns about headaches and swelling on the side of her face.

After retreating to a police van, Short said he saw Bayoh in a “pressure position” and “lifted” three male colleagues onto him.

On Friday, Walker said the detention began after watching Bayoh do a “full-strength stamp” on Short. She recalled: “I remember thinking it was three of the biggest guys on the shift…it was like nothing I had ever seen before in my life.”

Agreeing that Bayoh’s behavior led her to believe he might have been under the influence of alcohol or drugs, Grahame asked her if Short was considering restraining him or calling an ambulance. She replied: ‘There was no way to contain it’, adding that her main concern was public safety following ‘numerous calls’ about a man with a knife.

When asked if she had ever witnessed an incident with a black man, Short replied, “I don’t think I had,” but added, “His race has nothing to do with it. the way we handled the call.”

In an opening statement to the inquest, Short said she retired from the force after sustaining physical and psychological injuries as a result of the incident.

The investigation is continuing.

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