Dale Burns

Competitor: Bodybuilder Dale Burns is believed to be the first person to die from a police Taser
A bodybuilder is believed to be the first person in Britain to have died from a police Taser after officers shot him three times with the powerful 50,000-volt gun.

Father-of-two Dale Burns, 27, was confronted by up to eight officers after they were called to reports of a disturbance at his bedsit in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria.

He was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage but when he refused to calm down officers used pepper spray before one fired at him three times in quick succession.

His death reopened the debate on the controversial use of Tasers amid calls for a radical overhaul of their use.

Human rights group Amnesty International said the weapon, introduced in the UK in 2004, should only ever be used in situations where there is a 'very real threat of loss of life'.

Last night the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) launched an investigation into the arrest and death of Mr Burns at his block of flats.

They will also examine claims that Mr Burns had been using steroids and whether that may have played a part in his death.

Friends at his gym dismissed the claims as untrue.

Dale Burns 2

Bodybuilder Dale Burns, believed to be the man who has died after being shot by a police with a taser gun in Barrow in Furness last night. Pictured with partner Sarah Keverne
Mr Burns, who regularly competed in national and regional bodybuilding competitions, moved into his flat in the last few months after splitting up from the mother of his younger child.

Neighbours are understood to have called police on Tuesday after they heard him 'shouting and screaming' inside for an hour.

They also claim to have heard him smashing things inside.

Mr Burns was arrested but is believed to have become increasingly agitated.

A friend, who did not want to be named, said: 'I don't know what kicked off the trouble but when the police got to him they couldn't control him so they Tasered him.

'But he got back up and was going off his head because he was angry at what they had done, so they Tasered him twice more.

'They got him up to the hospital and his body went into shock.

'They brought him back to life with the shockers but then he just went flatline.'

He added: 'The police went overboard with the Taser. They didn't need to Taser him three times.'

Dale Burns taser graphic
© Press Association
Stan Dewhurst, 48, the owner of Flex Appeal gym, said: 'Dale was definitely not a violent person.

'He was a lovely man and he came to the gym to work out nearly every day. Nobody had a bad word to say about him.

'Why seven police officers feel the need to Taser someone is beyond me.'

Last night Mr Burns's mother, Donna Brown, 47, left flowers at his home with a card which read: 'You will always be my pride and joy, Mum's baby boy.'

Also paying tribute, his younger sister Chloe, 23, who works as a barmaid in the Three Horseshoes Inn, in the Yorkshire Dales village of Ingleton, said: 'Rest in peace Dale.

'You were not just my big brother, but my hero and idol. A true legend who will never be forgotten.

'I wish I could go back to sleep and Tuesday never happened.

'I will miss you taking the p**s all the time about my silly Yorkshire accent, but what I wouldn't give to hear you do it to me one more time.

'I love you bruv. We'll miss you more than anything in the world. You were my true hero, my idol.'

Two police officers stood next to the property which the Mr Burns is said to have moved into four months ago. Stuck to his door bell was a note which read: 'The Playboy Mansion.'

A friend of Mr Burns said: 'Dale worked the doors around here at different pubs.

'He had a girlfriend and two young kids, aged four and two-and-a-half.

'I went to the hospital last night and his mum Donna was there, she didn't know why he had been tasered or what had happened.

'Apparently he had been tasered three times.

'Dale was a really good lad, we went to the gym together, he'd been going since he was 15.'

Dale Burns 3
© North News & Pictures Limited
Tribute: Flowers had been laid outside the entrance to the Victorian building where Mr Burns had lived in a second floor flat
It is believed Mr Burns was in his flat when the police were called and there were no others present.

Neighbours of the body-builder reported having heard a disturbance yesterday evening, but said this was not unusual for a busy street near the centre of town.

One woman, who did not wish to be named, said: 'I did hear a noise, like a disturbance at about half six.

'I heard people shouting although I could not make out the words.

'It can be quite loud here, and there are lots of kids about so I didn't think much of it until I heard the news this morning.

Since their introduction Tasers have been used in around 6,000 incidents.

At first only firearms officers were allowed to use them in exceptional circumstances.

But by July 2007 they were given powers to use the high-voltage weapons in less serious incidents.

Two months later, non-firearms officers were given authorisation to carry the weapons, provided they were given additional training under a pilot scheme involving ten forces which was later expanded to include all 43 police forces in England and Wales.

In most of Scotland, only firearms officers are permitted to carry Tasers.

Amnesty International says it has recorded the deaths of more than 450 people in the United States after they were struck with a Taser, many of them unarmed.

Spokesman Eulette Ewart said: 'While we're not able to comment on the details of this specific tragic incident, Amnesty International has long been concerned at the wider deployment of the Taser across UK police forces.

'Tasers are potentially lethal and therefore should only be used in a limited set of instances where there is a very real threat of loss of life.

'Only officers who receive the highest standard of training on how and when to use Tasers should be armed with these weapons and there must be a high level of accountability whenever Tasers are used.'

Polcie Taser gun
© Newsline
Controversial: A police officer wields a Taser gun
A controversial new super Taser - the X-Rep - is currently being evaluated by the Home Office for use by British police forces.

It was deployed by officers after they cornered fugitive gunman Raoul Moat in July last year.

In 2006, 47-year-old Brian Loan died several days after being shot with a Taser in County Durham, but a coroner attributed his death to heart disease.