Murdered by the Mob
On October 5, four police officers burst into the home of Broadwater Farm resident Cynthia Jarrett looking for stolen property. They failed to find any, but Jarrett had a heart attack and died. Jarrett’s family demanded an inquiry, but made it clear they did not want any kind of public disorder, in light of the recent riot brought about by the raid of Cherry Groce’s house a few days earlier, which lead to her shooting.
At 18h45, however, rioting broke out in north London. Police were pelted with bricks, bottles and petrol bombs. Cars were overturned and set alight, as were shops and other buildings.
One witness reckoned that, in less than five minutes, more than 50 petrol bombs were made up on the streets. At about 21h00 fire fighters believed the flames from a burning supermarket might spread to nearby flats. They tried to get near the building to assess the danger, but were beaten back by a crowd of youths throwing bottles.
At about 22h00, the fire fighters returned with a police escort. They came under a renewed and more violent attack. The group made a run for safety, chased by the youths. PC Keith Blakelock tripped. When his body was recovered it was found to have sustained 40 wounds – and an attempt had been made to decapitate him.
It goes without saying reports of the incident were confused. More than 300 people were arrested in the ensuing investigation. On March 19, 1987, Winston Silcott, Mark Braithwaite and Engin Ragship were convicted of Blakelock’s murder. The evidence against them consisted primarily of confessions which had been recorded during their first interviews. Or so the police claimed.
In December 1991, Silcott’s conviction was quashed when the Court of Appeal heard evidence of expert witnesses who showed his confession had not been recorded ‘contemporaneously’. The implication was that if the police had lied about this, the rest of their case was shaky.
A short while later, Raghip and Braithwaite’s convictions were overturned when the court heard that, because of their ‘low intellectual capacities’, the lengthy questioning they underwent could have produced unreliable answers. In 2003, Nicholas Jacobs, 44, was charged with Blakelock’s murder. He was later acquitted and the case remains open.