Manslaughter arrest in death of hockey player Adam Johnson

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South Yorkshire Police say they arrested a hockey player on “suspicion” of manslaughter in the on-ice fatal injury of Adam Johnson.

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The stunning development was announced Tuesday by the service.

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Under the headline “Man arrested following death of ice hockey player in Sheffield,” SYP said, “Officers investigating the death of Nottingham Panthers player Adam Johnson have made an arrest. Detectives have today (Tuesday) arrested a man on suspicion of manslaughter. He remains in police custody at this time.”

While they have not named him, that player is believed to be Toronto-area native Matt Petgrave, 31.

SYP explain “in line with College of Policing guidance, we can neither confirm nor deny the identity of a suspect who may or may not be under criminal investigation. Our position cannot and does not seek to prevent the media relying on information from sources outside the police in order to confirm identities.

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“As general guidance, we do name suspects at point of charge.”

But people close to Johnson say they believe it is Petgrave who is in custody.

This has come about as a result of an incident in an Oct. 28 game in which Johnson, 29, of the Nottingham Panthers of the British Elite Ice Hockey League was struck in the neck by a skate during a play by Sheffield Steelers player Petgrave.

Johnson, from Hibbing, Minn., tried to get up from the ice but blood starting pouring out of his neck.

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Police say Johnson was “seriously injured during a game between Nottingham Panthers and Sheffield Steelers and was sadly later pronounced deceased in hospital” in which a “post-mortem examination confirmed he died as a result of a fatal neck injury.”

The game was postponed. Petgrave, seen in the video appearing to check Johnson with his skates up, was said to later be in the corner crying.

Police arrived on the scene and began their investigation. Originally they said it would take some time. Just a little more than two weeks later, they have made an arrest.

Manslaughter is considered an involuntary murder.

“Our investigation launched immediately following this tragedy and we have been carrying out extensive enquiries ever since to piece together the events which led to the loss of Adam in these unprecedented circumstances,” said Detective Chief Superintendent Becs Horsfall. “We have been speaking to highly specialized experts in their field to assist in our enquiries and continue to work closely with the health and safety department at Sheffield City Council, which is supporting our ongoing investigation.”

The Sheffield team was back on the ice this weekend and while fans gave a standing ovation to Petgrave’s photograph being displayed on the scoreboard, the player was not in the lineup. Neither the league nor the team has said if Petgrave has been suspended for the infraction. He appears to still be on the active roster.

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Petgrave previously played in the OHL with the Niagara Ice Dogs, Owen Sound Attack and Oshawa Generals and also played for the University of New Brunswick.

Meanwhile, Johnson’s family were digesting the news Tuesday of the SYP’s decision.

Johnson’s aunt Kari Johnson earlier said she did not feel this was a hockey play and hoped there would be justice done.

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