Hundreds gather as Tottenham rights launch support campaign for seventh man prosecuted for 1985 murder of PC Blakelock.
As helicopters circled above, petrol bombs and bricks were thrown, knives and batons were wielded, over 250 people were injured and one police officer was killed. 28 years may have passed since the Broadwater farm conflict but many feel it continues to taint relations between Tottenham police and the Black community in particular to this day.
Sparked by the death of Cynthia Jarrett, a mother of five, following a Police raid of her home, the aftermath of the conflict between riot police and youths led to almost 400 people being arrested. Six men, the youngest of whom was just 13, were prosecuted for the murder of PC Blakelock, who was killed. Three men were convicted but later released after police were found to have falsified evidence.
With a seventh man, Nicky Jacobs, who would have been 16 at the time, due to stand trial for the murder next month, Tottenham Rights, an offshoot of the Monitoring Group, a civil rights and equalities charity, held a community meeting to launch a support campaign for Mr Jacobs who protests his innocence.
Chaired by Stafford Scott, who was one of the youth leaders during the conflict, the meeting saw the likes of political activist Lee Jasper and acclaimed reggae artist Lynton Kwesi Johnson discuss the social climate which led to the conflict.
Against a backdrop of poverty and open racial hostility with fascist groups such as the National front enjoying significant followings, Lee Jasper said Black people were also targeted by the police often under suspected person laws.
Now abolished, so-called ‘Sus laws’ gave police the power to arrest anyone they deemed suspicious and Mr Jasper said he was one of many young Black men repeatedly arrested on ‘false charges.’
‘I remember I was first arrested when I was 14, they (the police) put me in the back of their car.’ He recalled.
‘My mother came out and said “I want him out of the car, I’m his mother he’s only fourteen.”
Mr Jasper said the officer then rolled the window down and spat at his mother before shouting obscenities at her and driving away with him in the backseat.
‘That wasn’t exceptional behaviour at the time; my friends and I were constantly harassed and arrested on false charges.’
Pauline Campbell, a friend of Cynthia Jarrett’s family, read a statement from Pauline and Floyd Jarrett recounting the events of the day their mother died.
On 5th October 1985 Floyd Jarrett was arrested on suspicion of driving a stolen car and the decision was made to search his family home. After taking Mr Jarrett’s house keys four officers allegedly let themselves into the house and began searching the property. Pauline, who was in the house at the time, claims an officer, startled by Cynthia’s presence, pushed her forcefully causing her to collapse. Police officers deny this.
During the raid, Ms Jarrett suffered a fatal heart attack and died.
As news of her death spread, there was intense anger throughout the community. Just a week before, Cherie Gross was shot in the back and paralysed by police in Brixton after officers broke down her door with a sledgehammer searching for her son who was wanted for armed robbery. This led to major riots in Brixton and Stafford Scott said many were incensed that women had become victims of the police.
‘It seemed as though it wasn’t just open season on Black youth, it seemed as though it was spreading to Black women and mothers and we couldn’t accept that.’
Mr Scott says the next day, he and others on the Broadwater farm estate intended to demonstrate outside of Tottenham police station but were prevented from leaving the estate by Police in riot gear.
‘They tried to intimidate us but underestimated the anger of the people.’
‘We’re talking about the biggest gang in town who had beaten and bullied us for years and again intended to do us harm but this time we stood our ground.’
The ensuing conflict saw police forces severely overwhelmed. A total of 243 police officers were injured, several officers would never return to duty and 1 police officer, PC Blakelock, was killed.
Following the riot, Police began an intense investigation into the officer’s murder, maintaining a strong police presence on the estate for several months. Officers made 368 arrests and over 200 people were held, the vast majority without access to lawyers or their families.
With no forensic evidence available, officers relied on witness testimonies leading to three men and three juveniles being tried for the murder. With none of the defendants appearing in any of the 1,000 police photographs of the riot, no eyewitnesses and no forensic evidence, Prosecutors relied solely on confessions from terrified and sometimes mentally challenged community members.
13 year old Jason Hill, one of the three juveniles who served as key witnesses, described the murder in horrific detail and named Winston Silcott as the ring leader. However his description did not match the injuries suffered by PC Blakelock. He would later claim his confession came after being threatened by the police and held for three days in just his underwear and a blanket.
‘They could have told me it was Prince Charles and I would have said it was him.’ He said in an interview published years later in David Rose’s 1992 book, A Climate of Fear: Blakelock Murder and the Tottenham Three.
While the Juveniles were released, Winston Silcott, Mark Briathwaite and Engen Ragship were jailed. Four years later, their convictions were overturned when a Electrostatic Detection Analysis test, which determines the chronology of written notes, found that officers handwritten notes of Mr Silcott’s incriminating interview were added at a later date. The two detectives in charge of the investigation were both charged but later acquitted of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
Following the case, the court of appeal issued its first ever apology to a victim of miscarriage of justice with Chief Justice Farquharson expressing ‘profound regret.’
Speaking together for the first time since winning their appeals in 1991, both Mr Silcott and Mr Briathwaite spoke of the psychological trauma they suffered serving four years for a crime neither committed.
‘The thing people don’t realise is prison is mostly psychological.’ said Mr Silcott
‘It was supposed to break me but I survived.’
After re-opening the case in December 2003, Police arrested 14 men on suspicion of PC Blakelock’s murder and in July 2013 announced that 1 man, Nicholas Jacob, would be prosecuted.
Mr Silcott and Mr Briathwaite joined Stafford Scott in calling for community members to attend Mr Jacob’s trial to see justice is delivered.
‘I’m asking that you sacrifice your Mondays and tell your friends and family to come and stand with us because it’s a worthy cause.’
The trial begins on Monday 3rd March at 9am at the Old Bailey and will then continue every Monday at 1pm to 2:30pm until the trial concludes.
For more information visit The Monitoring group at www.tmg-uk.org.