Met police chief Sir Ian Blair has issued a guarded apology to the family of Tottenham man Roger Sylvester, who died in police custody.

In an unprecedented move, Sir Ian said sorry' to the Sylvester's as he made a special appearance at the Haringey Community and Police Consultative Group's general meeting in Wood Green last Wednesday evening.

Mr Sylvester, 30, who had a history of mental health and drug problems, died in January 1999, after being arrested by officers who found him naked, banging on doors in Summerhill Road.

He was taken to St Ann's Hospital where he was restrained by officers, but collapsed and died seven days later at the Whittington Hospital in Highgate. The Sylvesters have been fighting for answers ever since.

They were left devastated last December when a judge overturned an inquest verdict of unlawful killing and seven police officers involved in the case were returned to duty.

Sir Ian said: "If you are saying to me the Met has never apologised, then that really worries me. Does the Met wish to say sorry about whatever involvement it had in the death of Roger Sylvester. Let me just say here and now, I apologise, I apologise absolutely."

Despite the admission, Mr Sylvester's brother, Victor, said he would not accept the apology.

He said: "It was a niceness, but I am not satisfied. He may be apologising for himself, but he is not apologising for the actions of the police officers."

Sir Ian dismissed calls for a further inquiry into Mr Sylvester's death, but said a probe into how the Met handles mental illness and distress in public was needed instead.

The commissioner was met by protestors from Haringey Stop the War Coalition as he arrived for the meeting at the Civic Centre in High Road.

More than 20 protestors waved placards and shouted "No shoot to kill", in response to the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian electrician shot dead by police who suspected him of being a suicide bomber.

Sir Ian, who has come under increasing pressure to resign since Mr de Menezes' death, told the Independent it was the first protest he had come across.

Addressing the meeting, Sir Ian said the death of Mr de Menezes was a "tragedy" for which he would go on apologising, but he stood by his shoot to kill policy following the 7/7 terror attacks on London.

He said events on July 7 and July 21 had changed the way the Met police operate and stressed the importance of working with the community to fight crime through Safer Neighbourhood Teams, which will be fully rolled out across every London borough next year.

Haringey has eight teams in place to date with 11 more needed.

Sir Ian, who was appointed Met police commissioner six months ago, said he faced the toughest challenge of his career during the July attacks.

He said: "It was a pretty extraordinary set of events in which I was very proud of the way the officers of the Met responded. Those days and nights are etched on my mind."