The Unsolved Racist Murder of Keith Blakelock

Stephen Lawrence was a black man stabbed twice by five racist whites in England in 1993. His killers were convicted. The media, politicians and celebrities constantly talk about it.

Keith Blakelock was a white man stabbed over forty times by fifty racist blacks in England in 1985. His killers were never convicted. The media, politicians and celebrities never talk about it.

PC Keith Blakelock.jpg
Metropolitan Police Service
28 June 1945 – 6 October 1985 (aged 40)
Badge number 176050
Place of birth Sunderland, Tyne and Wear
Place of death Broadwater Farm, Tottenham, North London
Years of service Five
Rank Police Constable
Awards Queen’s Gallantry Medal
Relations Elizabeth Blakelock, later Johnson (wife)
Mark, Kevin, Lee (sons)

The murder of PC Keith Blakelock, an officer with the London Metropolitan Police, occurred on 6 October 1985 during rioting on the Broadwater Farm housing estate in Tottenham, north London. The violence broke out after a black woman died of heart failure during a police search of her home, and took place against a backdrop of unrest in several English cities and a breakdown of the relationship between the police and local black communities.[1]

Blakelock, who had joined the police five years earlier, had been assigned on the night of his death to a unit of 10 constables and a sergeant, known as Serial 502, who were dispatched to protect firefighters. When the officers were forced back by rioters, Blakelock stumbled and fell, and was surrounded by a mob of around 50 people. He received over 40 stabbing and cutting injuries, inflicted by machetes or similar, and the penetration of a six-inch-long knife into his neck.[1] He was the only police constable to have been killed in a riot in Britain since Robert Culley was stabbed to death in Clerkenwell, central London, in 1833.[2]

Three adults and three juveniles were charged with murder based on untaped confessions they were said to have given to detectives. The charges against the youths were dismissed by a judge because the accused had been detained without access to parents or a lawyer. The adults—Winston Silcott, Mark Braithwaite and Engin Raghip—were convicted in 1987 and sentenced to life imprisonment. The men became known as the “Tottenham Three” during a campaign to secure their release, and in 1991 the Court of Appeal overturned their convictions, after an Electrostatic Document Apparatus (ESDA) test suggested that at least one page of detectives’ notes from an interview—during which Silcott appeared to incriminate himself, though he said the remarks were a fabrication—may not have been transcribed contemporaneously, contrary to the detectives’ testimony at trial.[3] In 1994 a jury found the detectives not guilty of perjury and of perverting the course of justice.[4] Police re-opened the inquiry in 2003, and 10 men in their 40s and 50s were arrested and questioned in 2010, but the murder remains unsolved.[5]

Blakelock and the nine other constables of Serial 502 were awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal for bravery in 1988, while Sergeant David Pengelly, the unit’s supervisor—who fought to save Blakelock and PC Richard Coombes, another officer who came under attack—received the George Medal, awarded for acts of great bravery.[6]




Keith Henry Blakelock (28 June 1945 – 6 October 1985) was born in Sunderland. He joined the Metropolitan Police Service on 14 November 1980, and was assigned to a response team in Hornsey before becoming a home beat officer in Muswell Hill.[7] At the time of his death, he was married to Elizabeth Blakelock, with three sons, Mark, Kevin, and Lee. Lee Blakelock, eight years old when his father died, went on to become a police officer himself, joining Durham Police in 2000.[8]

Social unrest

The rioting in Tottenham in 1985 during which Blakelock died took place within the context of social unrest elsewhere in England. Since the 1980 St. Pauls riot in Bristol, and particularly since the 1981 Brixton riot in south London, a series of incidents had sparked violent confrontations across the country between black youths and largely white police officers.[1]

On 9 September 1985, a month before Blakelock’s murder, there was rioting in Handsworth, Birmingham, after the arrest of a black man for a traffic offence. Two people were killed in these disturbances.[9] On 28 September, a black woman, Dorothy “Cherry” Groce (1948–2011), was accidentally shot by police while they searched her home in Brixton looking for her son, Michael Groce, wanted on suspicion of robbery and firearms offences.[10] Believing she had died in the shooting—in fact, she survived but was left paralysed from the waist down—a group of protesters gathered outside Brixton police station, and rioting broke out that saw police lose control of the area for 48 hours.[11] A journalist, David Hodge, was killed when a breeze block was dropped on his head while he photographed the looting.[12] On 1 October there were further disturbances in Toxteth, Liverpool.[13] Rumors spread throughout several London communities that rioting was imminent in areas the police called “symbolic locations,” including Bermondsey and the Wood Green shopping centre in Tottenham, near the Broadwater Farm housing estate, and on 2 October police found a petrol bomb at the Farm itself. British journalist David Rose wrote in 1992 that all was needed for rioting to begin there was a trigger.[14]

Broadwater Farm riot

Broadwater Farm

Further information: Broadwater Farm

The Broadwater Farm housing estate in Tottenham, North London, photographed in 2007

Broadwater Farm in Tottenham, north London (N17), emerged out of the British government’s policy from the 1930s onwards of “slum clearance,” where rows of over-crowded and poorly maintained terraced houses were bulldozed to make way for high-rise social housing, known as council estates.[15] Completed in 1973, the Farm, as it is known locally, consists of 1,000 flats (apartments) in 12 blocks surrounded by high-level outdoor walkways. Commentators blamed these walkways for turning the estate into a “rabbit warren” for criminals, and residents complained that they were afraid to leave their homes. Rose writes that by 1976 it was already seen as a “sink estate,” and by 1980 a Department of the Environment report raised the possibility that it might have to be demolished in the next decade, though a regeneration project after the 1985 riots led to improvements. At the time of Blakelock’s death it housed 3,400 people—49 percent whites and 43 percent Afro-Caribbeans.[16]

Death of Cynthia Jarrett

Further information: Broadwater Farm riot
Tottenham is located in Greater London

Tottenham (Greater London)

On Saturday, 5 October 1985, a week after the Brixton riot, police arrested Floyd Jarrett, a 24-year-old black man from Tottenham, on suspicion of being in a stolen car. It was a suspicion that turned out to be groundless, but a decision was made several hours later to search the home of his mother, Cynthia Jarrett, for stolen goods, and in the course of the search she collapsed and died of heart failure. Rose writes that the pathologist, Dr Walter Somerville, told the inquest she had a heart condition so severe she probably only had months to live.[17]

According to Rose, the police let themselves into the house using Floyd’s keys, without knocking or announcing themselves, while Mrs Jarrett and her family were watching television. The inquest heard that an officer accidentally pushed against Mrs. Jarrett, causing her to fall. When it became clear she had stopped breathing, the same officer tried to revive her using mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to no avail.[17]

Protesters began to gather outside Tottenham police station, just a few hundred yards from Broadwater Farm, around 1:30 am on Sunday morning. Four of the station’s windows were smashed, but the Jarrett family asked the crowd to disperse. Later that day, two police officers were attacked with bricks and paving stones at the Farm, and a police inspector was attacked in his car.[18] By early evening a crowd of 500 mostly young black men had gathered on the estate, throwing petrol bombs, bricks and stones, and dropping concrete blocks from the outdoor walkways that surrounded the apartment blocks.[19] The subsequent rioting was regarded as one of the most violent incidents the country had seen.[13] Apart from Blakelock’s death, 250 police officers were injured, and two policemen and three journalists suffered gunshot wounds,[20] the first time shots had been fired by rioters in Britain.[19]

Attack on Keith Blakelock

Blakelock was assigned on the night to Serial 502, a Metropolitan police unit consisting of a sergeant and 10 police constables.[21] At 9:30 pm Sergeant David Pengelly led the unit—all in riot protection gear, including shields, flame-proof overalls, and NATO-style hard hats—to protect local firefighters who had been forced out of the estate’s Tangmere block, where a fire had been started in a newsagent’s shop on an upper deck.[22] One of the firefighters, Trevor Stratford, said the men made their way up an enclosed staircase, with Serial 502 behind them. Suddenly rioters appeared at the top, blowing whistles and throwing bottles.[23]


Broadwater Farm’s Tangmere block, where Blakelock was sent to protect local firefighters.

Pengelly ordered the fire fighters and police officers to retreat. They had to run backwards down the narrow staircase, fearful of tripping over the fire hoses, which had been flat before but were now full of water.[24] Pengelly described it “as an extremely difficult position [in which] to defend yourself.”[21] As they ran down the stairwell, Statford saw there were rioters at the bottom too, wearing masks or crash helmets, and carrying knives, baseball bats, bricks and petrol bombs. He said it appeared the fire may have been set as an ambush.[23] As the fire fighters and police exited the stairwell toward a car park and a patch of grass, Stratford became aware that Blakelock had tripped and fallen: “He just stumbled and went down and they were upon him. It was just mob hysteria. … There were about 50 people on him.[25]

The rioters removed his protective helmet, which was never found. Rose writes that the pathologist found 54 holes in his overalls, and 40 cutting or stabbing injuries, eight of them to his head, caused by a machete, sword, or axe-type instrument. A six-inch-long knife was buried in his neck up to the hilt. His hands and arms were cut to ribbons, and he had lost several of his fingers. There were 14 stabbing wounds on his back, six on his face, a six-inch gash across the right side of his head, and his jawbone had been smashed. The pathologist said the force of the blow that caused this injury had been “almost as if to sever his head.”[26]

A second group surrounded another constable, Richard Coombes, who sustained a five-inch-long cut to his face, a broken upper jaw, and a smashed lower jaw.[24] In 2004 he said he was still suffering the effects of the attack, including poor hearing and eyesight, and epileptic fits. Police regard the attack on him as attempted murder.[27] A third constable, Michael Shepherd, had his protective helmet pierced by an iron spike.[28] Trevor Stratford told a reporter in 2010: “I remember running in with another fire officer to get Dick Coombes. I literally slid into the group, like a rugby player charging into a ruck. We dragged him out, but he was in a hell of a state”:[23]


The front and back of Blakelock’s protective overalls. Each piece of tape represents a stabbing or cutting wound.[29]

I then ran back towards Keith Blakelock. Other police officers were already there. We were all being hit and beaten, but I managed to get hold of his collar and pull his head and shoulders out of the group. One of the other officers helped me to drag him out.Dave Pengelly kept a rearguard barrier between us and the rioters, standing in the middle of it all with just a shield and a truncheon, trying to fend them off, which is an image I’ll never forget.Between us all we managed to manhandle Keith out to the road, and safety. He was already unconscious when I’d got to him on the ground. I started mouth-to-mouth and heart massage on him, but his injuries were just horrific.He had a knife embedded up to the handle in the back of his neck. We could see he had multiple stab wounds and some of his fingers were missing. I just kept working on him with another officer, and I think we got some response, but only very limited.[23]

Chief Superintendent Colin Couch, the highest-ranking officer at the scene, was one of the first officers to reach Blakelock. Crouch said he was still alive, and managed to take two or three steps before collapsing. He was taken by ambulance to the North Middlesex Hospital, but died on the way.[28]

Media and police response

Rose writes that there was a racist media frenzy after the killing, placing intense external pressure on detectives to solve the case. According to Rose, the news coverage included the Sun newspaper comparing Labour’s prospective candidate for Tottenham, Bernie Grant, to an ape, writing that he had given a press conference while peeling a banana and juggling an orange. Grant had caused uproar when he was reported as saying the police had been given a “bloody good hiding,”[30] though his statement was also reported as: “The youths around here believe the police were to blame for what happened on Sunday and what they got was a bloody good hiding.”[31] The Daily Express—falling for one of notorious British hoaxer Rocky Ryan‘s stories—reported on 8 October that a “Moscow-trained hit squad gave orders as mob hacked PC Blakelock to death,” alleging that “crazed left-wing extremists” trained in Moscow and Libya had coordinated the riots. The Met’s commissioner, Kenneth Newman, told reporters that groups of Trotskyists and anarchists—black and white—had orchestrated the violence, a theme picked up by the Daily Telegraph and others.[30]

There was internal pressure on detectives too from the rank and file, who saw their superior officers as sharing the blame for Blakelock’s death.[32] The journal Police, published by the Police Federation, argued that senior officers had pursued a policy at Broadwater Farm of avoiding confrontation at all costs, and that “community policing” had led to compromises with criminals, rather than a focus on upholding the law. As a result, the journal wrote, officers had failed to appreciate the seriousness of the situation that had developed on the estate.[33]

Investigation, legal proceedings

Officer in charge: DCS Graham Melvin

Detective Chief Superintendent Graham Melvin was placed in charge of the investigation, which became the largest in the history of the Metropolitan Police, with 150 officers assigned full-time. Melvin was born in Halifax in 1941, joining the Metropolitan Police in 1960, then the Criminal Investigation Department. He studied at Bramshill Police College, served with the Flying Squad, and was known for having solved several notorious cases, including that of Kenneth Erskine, the Stockwell Strangler. He became a Detective Chief Superintendent in March 1985 when he joined the International and Organised Crime Squad (SO1), which Peter Victor writes takes only the cream of detectives.[34]

In addition to the intense media focus on the case, Melvin faced the problem of having no forensic evidence to go on, because senior officers had not allowed Broadwater Farm to be sealed off immediately after the attack. Police were not allowed into the estate until 4 am, by which time much of the evidence had disappeared. Whatever remained was removed during Haringey Council‘s clean-up operation.[35]

Melvin therefore resorted to arresting suspects—including juveniles, some of them particularly vulnerable—and holding them incommunicado for days without access to lawyers.[36] He defended this in court by arguing that lawyers might wittingly or unwittingly pass information they had gleaned during interviews to other suspects. He said under cross-examination that in his view “the integrity of some firms of solicitors left a lot to be desired,” and that he believed they were being retained by people who had an interest in learning what other suspects were saying.[37] The Crown prosecutor, Roy Amlot QC, told the murder trial that the police had one effective weapon, namely that suspects did not know who else had spoken to police and what they had said, and that “the use of that weapon by the police was legitimate and effective.”[38]

Blakelock’s murder took place before police interviews were recorded on tape, so one detective would conduct the interview, while a second took contemporaneous notes. Of the 359 people arrested in connection with the inquiry in 1985 and 1986, just 94 were interviewed in the presence of a lawyer, and many of the confessions—whether directly about the murder, or about having taken part in the rioting—were made before the lawyer was given access to the interviewee. When people did confess to even a minor role in the rioting, such as throwing a few stones, they were charged with affray, a serious offence. One resident told the 1986 Gifford inquiry into the rioting: “You would go to bed and just lie there, and you would think, are they going to come and kick my door, what’s going to happen to my children? It was the horrible fear that you lived with day by day, knowing they could come and kick down your door and hold you for hours.” Thus, argues Rose, the police created, or at least intensified, a climate of fear in which witnesses were afraid to step forward.[39]

Juveniles charged

Several juveniles were arrested and interviewed without access to lawyers or parents, including three who were charged with murder. They, in turn, implicated others.[40]

Mark Pennant, aged 15, was arrested on 9 October, and became the first person to be charged with the murder. He was born in England to West Indian parents, and had been raised in the West Indies until he was nine, when he returned to the UK. He had learning difficulties, and was attending a special school. He was arrested at school, handcuffed, and taken to Wood Green Police Station, where he was interviewed over the course of two days with a teacher in attendance. The police reportedly told him his mother had refused to help him; in fact, Rose writes, she did not know where he was. He was interviewed six times, during which he said he had cut Blakelock and kicked him twice, and named Silcott (nicknamed “Sticks”) as the ringleader. He named several others, including another juvenile, Mark Lambie. Pennant was charged with the murder on 11 October.[41]

Jason Hill, a 13-year-old white boy who lived on Broadwater Farm, was seen looting from a store in the Tangmere block during the rioting, near where Blakelock was killed. He was arrested on 13 October and taken to Leyton Police Station, where he was held for three days without access to a lawyer. A social worker from Haringey Council arrived to sit in as an “appropriate adult,” but the council had a policy of “non-cooperation” with the police, so the arrangement did not work out.[40] Hyancinth Moody of the Haringey Community Relations Council police liaison committee sat in instead; she was later criticized by the judge for having failed to intervene.[42] Hill’s clothes and shoes were removed for forensic tests, and he was interviewed wearing only underpants and a blanket, the latter of which by the third day of detention was stained with his own vomit. Over the course of several interviews, he told police that he had witnessed the attack on Blakelock, and named Silcott (calling him “Sticks”), and two others, one of them Mark Lambie.[40] Both Mark Pennant and Jason Hill named Mark Lambie, the third juvenile to be charged with the murder.[43]

Hill said Silcott had forced him to make a mark on Blakelock with a heavy sword.[40] In 1991 he told David Rose that, throughout the interview, the police were saying, “Go on, admit it, you had a stab,” and “It was Sticks, wasn’t it?” He said they threatened to keep him in the station for two weeks, and told him he would never see his family. He told Rose: “They could have told me it was Prince Charles and I would have said it was him.”[44]

Adults charged

Winston Silcott

Further information: Winston Silcott

David Rose writes that one former detective inspector who spoke to him called the Blakelock investigation a “pre-scientific inquiry, it was all about how to get Winston Silcott convicted, not discovering who killed Keith Blakelock.”[45] By the time of the murder, the local police saw Silcott as the “biggest mafioso in Tottenham,” running gangs of muggers and paying them in drugs, according to Rose’s source.[46]

Silcott was born in Tottenham in 1959, after his parents, both Seventh-day Adventists, had arrived in England from Montserrat two years earlier.[47] He told reporters he was subjected to racism, particularly from the police, throughout his entire upbringing. He left school at 15 and took a series of low-paying jobs, began breaking into houses in 1976, and was sent to borstal for a few months in 1977.[48] In 1979 he was sentenced to six months for wounding, and in 1980 was acquitted—after two trials, the first of which saw a hung jury—of the murder of 19-year-old Lennie McIntosh, a postal worker, who was stabbed and killed at a party in 1979.[49]

In 1980 Silcott and a friend began operating a mobile disco known as “Galaxy Soul Shuffle,” playing at festivals and private parties.[50] In October 1983 he was fined for possessing a flick knife, in March 1984 for obstructing police, and in 1985 made the news when he spoke to Princess Diana during an official visit to Broadwater Farm, reportedly telling her she should not have come without bringing jobs with her, which the Sun newspaper interpreted as a threat.[51]

In December 1984 he was arrested for the murder of a 22-year-old boxer, Anthony Smith, at a party in Hackney. Smith was slashed more than once on his face, there were two wounds to his abdomen, a lung was lacerated, and his aorta was cut. Silcott was charged with the murder in May 1985, and was out on bail awaiting trial when Blakelock was killed in October 1985. He at first told police he had not known Smith and had not been at the party, though at trial he said he had been confused and had indeed been there. He said Smith had started punching him, and he had pushed him back, but had not been carrying a knife. He was convicted of the murder in February 1986—while awaiting trial for the Blakelock murder—and was sentenced to life imprisonment.[52] Later, he told his lawyer he had indeed known Smith, that there was bad blood between them, and that he had stabbed him in self-defence, because he could see that one of Smith’s friends had a knife.[53]

Arrest and conviction for Blakelock murder

Silcott was arrested for the Blakelock murder on 12 October 1985, six days after the riot, after being named by several young men—most of them juveniles, and some of them vulnerable and attending special education schools—who were arrested by police and held without access to lawyers. During the interviews, most of the witnesses referred to Silcott as “Sticks.”[54] Silcott was interviewed five times over 24 hours, Melvin asking the questions and Detective Inspector Maxwell Dingle taking the notes. During the first four interviews, he stayed mostly silent and refused to sign them, but during the fifth interview on 13 October, when Melvin said he knew Silcott had struck Blakelock with a machete or sword, his demeanour apparently changed.[55] The notes show him asking: “Who told you that?”[55] When the detectives said they had witnesses, the notes say Silcott walked around the interview room with tears in his eyes, saying: “You cunts, you cunts,” then “Jesus, Jesus,” then: “You ain’t got enough evidence. Those kids will never go to court. You wait and see. No one else will talk to you. You can’t keep me away from them.” The notes show he said of the murder weapons: “You’re too slow, man, they gone.”[56]

He was at that point charged with the murder, to which he reportedly responded: “They won’t give evidence against me.”[56] He was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment on 18 March 1987 along with Engin Raghip and Mark Braithwaite. That he had been out on bail for the murder of Anthony Smith when Blakelock was killed was withheld from the jury, as was his subsequent conviction.[57] He chose not to take the stand because this would have left him open to questioning about his previous convictions.[3]

The press coverage of the trial included the publication on day two by the Sun of a notoriously violent-looking image of Silcott, the publication of which constituted “the most gross contempt,” according to Sir Derek Hodgson (1917–2002), the judge in the Blakelock trial, speaking to David Rose in 1992.[58] The photograph contributed to the sense of him as a “big black man to be fearful of,” as Silcott put it. He said he had been asleep in a cell at Paddington Green police station when it was taken. He was woken, held in a corridor with his arms pinned against a wall by three officers, and photographed. He said the expression on his face was one of fear, not violence.[59] Journalist Kurt Barling wrote that the press, and not only the tabloids, “created a monster to stalk the nightmares of Middle England …”[60]

The Court of Appeal accepted in 1991 that the notes of Silcott’s fifth interview with detectives may not have been contemporaneous, as the detectives said they were.[55] In March 2004 Silcott told a BBC documentary, Who Killed PC Blakelock?—presented by Barling—that he had been asleep in a friend’s home during the rioting.[61] He told The Observer: “And look, I’m on bail for a murder. I know I’m stupid, but I’m not that stupid. There’s helicopters, police photographers everywhere. All I could think about was that I didn’t want to lose my bail. I saw a young guy with a scaffolding pole and he made as if he was going to throw it through the window of my shop. I stopped him. Then I saw Pam, a friend of mine. She said, ‘You’d better come up. You know the police don’t like you.'”[3] He said he first learned of Blakelock’s death when he heard cheering in the apartment he was staying in, in response to a news report about it.[61]

Engin Raghip

Nineteen-year-old Engin Raghip, of Turkish-Cypriot descent, was arrested after a friend mentioned his name to police, the only time anyone linked him to the murder. Rose writes that Raghip was born in England in 1958, ten years after his parents had emigrated from Cyprus. He left school at 15, still illiterate, and by the time of the murder had two convictions, one for stealing cars and one for burglary. He had a common-law wife, Sharon Daly, with whom he had a two-year-old boy, and he worked occasionally as a mechanic. He had little connection with Broadwater Farm, though he lived nearby in Wood Green, and had gone to the Farm with two friends on the day of the rioting to watch, he said. One of those friends, John Broomfield, gave an interview to the Daily Mirror on 23 October, apparently boasting about his involvement in the rioting. He was arrested, and he implicated Raghip.[62]

At the time of Raghip’s arrest, on 24 October, he had been drinking and smoking cannabis for several days, had not slept or eaten properly, and Sharon had just left him, taking their son with her. He was held for two days without representation, first speaking to a solicitor on the third day, who said he found Raghip distressed and disoriented.[63] He was interviewed by Detective Sergeant van Thal and Detective Inspector John Kennedy ten times over a period of four days. He made several incriminating statements during the interviews, at first admitting he had thrown stones, then during the second interview saying he had seen the attack on Blakelock. During the third, he said he had spoken to Silcott about the murder, and that Silcott owned a hammer with a hook on one side. After the fifth interview, Rose writes, he was charged with affray, and during the sixth he described the attack on Blakelock: “It was like you see in a film, a helpless man with dogs on him. It was just like that, it was really quick.” He did not sign this interview, Rose writes, and after it he vomited.[64]

During a seventh interview the next day, he described noises he said Blakelock had made during the attack, and during the eighth said he had armed himself that night with a broom handle, and had tried to get close to what was happening to Blakelock, but there were too many people around him. He said: “I had a weapon when I was running toward the policeman, a broom handle.” He said he might have kicked or hit him had he been able to “get in.” Rose writes that he also offered the exact order in which Blakelock’s attackers had launched the assault. He was held for another two days, released on bail, then charged six weeks later with the murder, under the doctrine of common purpose.[64]

Mark Braithwaite

Mark Braithwaite was 18 when Blakelock was killed, a rapper and disc jockey living with his parents in Islington. He had a girlfriend who lived on Broadwater Farm, with whom he had a child. On 16 January 1986—three months after the murder—his name was mentioned for the first time to detectives by a man they had arrested, Bernard Kinghorn, who told them he had seen Braithwaite, whom he said he knew by sight, stab Blakelock with a kitchen knife. Kinghorn told the BBC three years later that his allegations had been false.[65]

Braithwaite was taken to Enfield Police Station and interviewed by Detective Sergeant Dermot McDermott and Detective Constable Colin Biggar. Rose writes that, on the instruction of Detective Chief Superintendent Melvin, he was at first denied access to a lawyer and held for three days; he was interviewed eight times over the first two days, and with a lawyer present four times on the third. He at first denied being anywhere near the Farm, then during interview four said he had been there and had thrown stones, and during interview five said he had been at the Tangmere block, but had played no role in the murder. During interview six, he said he had hit Blakelock with an iron bar in the chest and leg. Rose writes that there were no such injuries on Blakelock’s body. In a seventh interview, he said he had hit a police officer, but it was not Blakelock.[66] During the first 30 hours of his time in the police station he had nothing to eat, and said in court—as did several other suspects—that the heat in the cells was oppressive, making it difficult to breathe.[67] On the basis of this confession evidence, he was charged with murder.[66]

Convictions and appeal

The trial of the six began in court number two of the Old Bailey on 14 January 1987, and lasted two months. All were charged with murder, riot, and affray, and Lambie in addition was charged with throwing petrol bombs.[68] The three adults—Silcott, Raghip, and Braithwaite—were convicted of murder on 19 March 1987. There was one black juror, a woman, who fainted when the verdicts were read out. Rose writes that the tabloids knew no restraint, writing about the beasts of Broadwater Farm, hooded animals, and packs of savages, with the old jail-cell image of Silcott published above captions such as “smile of evil.”[69]

In December 1988 the men’s solicitors requested leave to appeal.[63] Raghip’s solicitor, Gareth Peirce—who also represented the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six, prominent cases of miscarriage of justice—argued that Raghip was suggestible, and that his confession could not be relied upon. She arranged for him to be examined by Dr. Gisli Gudjonsson of the Institute of Psychiatry in London, a specialist in suggestibility; Gudjonsson concluded that he was unusually suggestible, with a mental age of between 10 and 11. Lord Lane, the Lord Chief Justice of England, dismissed the application, arguing that the jury had had ample opportunity to form its own opinion of Raghip.[70]

A campaign to free the men began to gather pace. Rose writes that the New Statesman and Time Out wrote sympathetic pieces, and MPs and trade unionists were lobbied. In 1989 Silcott was even briefly elected honorary president of the London School of Economics, a decision that was quickly overturned, and later that year the BBC’s Inside Story reconstructed parts of the trial. During a BBC Newsnight discussion of the case, Lord Scarman, a former Law Lord, said the convictions ought to be overturned. Gareth Peirce, Raghip’s solicitor, asked the Home Secretary for a review, supported by Raghip’s MP Michael Portillo, and in December 1990 the Home Secretary, Kenneth Baker, referred the case back to the Court of Appeal.[71]

In parallel to the efforts of Pierce, Silcott’s lawyers requested access in November 1990 to his original interview notes, so that the seven pages from his crucial fifth interview—the notes he said were fabricated—could be submitted for an Electrostatic Document Apparatus (ESDA) test. The test reveals the indentations made on pages when the page above in a notebook is written on; in this way, the test’s developers say the chronological integrity of interview notes can determined. In Silcott’s case, the seventh and final page of the fifth interview, where the participants would normally sign, was missing.[72] The ESDA test suggested that, on pages three to six of the interview, there were no impressions from earlier pages, though these earlier impressions appeared throughout the rest of the notes. A later test indicated that those pages had been written on a different type of paper from the other notes.[55] As a result, the Home Secretary added Silcott and Braithwaite to Raghip’s appeal.[72]

The case was heard on 25 November 1991, during which the Crown prosecutor, Roy Amlot, conceded that the apparent contamination of the evidence rendered all three convictions unsafe. The Court of Appeal quashed the convictions, and Braithwaite and Raghip were released that day.[73] Silcott remained in jail for the 1984 murder of Smith. He received £17,000 compensation in 1991, and another £50,000 in 1999 for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution.[74] He was released on licence on 20 October 2003 after serving 17 years.[75]

Detectives tried and acquitted

In July 1992 Detective Chief Superintendent Graham Melvin was charged with perjury and perverting the course of justice, and Detective Inspector Maxwell Dingle with conspiracy.[76] None of the three people present during the disputed interview—Melvin, Dingle, and Silcott—gave evidence during the detectives’ trial at the Old Bailey in 1994. The prosecution alleged that the notes of Silcott’s fifth interview had been altered to include the self-incriminating remarks.[55] The detectives’ lawyers produced 14 undisclosed witness statements from the Blakelock inquiry, one of which said Silcott had been carrying a knife with a two-foot-long blade on the night of the murder, and that he had attacked Blakelock. The Independent wrote at the time that it seemed it was Silcott who was back on trial.[77] The detectives were acquitted in July 1994 by a unanimous jury verdict. Both officers had been suspended during the case. Melvin returned to work afterwards, while Dingle retired.[4]

Investigation re-opened

In March 1999 the Metropolitan Police included Blakelock’s killing in a review of 300 unsolved murders in London going back to 1984, when details were first recorded on computer.[78] In May 2002 Yardie gang leader Mark Lambie, one of the three juveniles initially charged with Blakelock’s murder, was jailed for 12 years for kidnap and blackmail, after detaining and torturing two men.[79]

In December 2003 the investigation was reopened, led by Detective Superintendent John Sweeney.[80] Detectives began re-examining 10,000 witness statements, and submitting items for forensic tests not available in 1985.[81] In September 2004 the garden of a council house in Willan Road, Tottenham was excavated after a tip-off, and an item that could have been the murder weapon was sent for forensic tests. At the time of Blakelock’s death, a friend of Cynthia Jarrett—the woman whose death sparked the rioting—lived at the house. Police also searched the garden for Blakelock’s truncheon and helmet, both of which went missing during the attack. Archaeologists dug up the back garden, while surveyors used infra-red beams to create a three-dimensional map of the area.[82] In October 2004 Blakelock’s overalls were retrieved from Scotland Yard‘s Crime Museum for DNA tests.[83]

On 5 February 2010, a 40-year-old man, originally from Tottenham, was arrested in Suffolk in connection with the murder. He was held and questioned for four days at Bury St. Edmunds police station, before being released on bail.[81] Two other men, aged 46 and 52, who lived in Tottenham in 1985, were arrested at separate north London addresses in May 2010, and released on bail after questioning.[84] Overall 10 men between the ages of 42 and 52 were arrested and questioned in 2010.[5] On 26 October 2010, marking the 25th anniversary of the murder, the BBC’s Crimewatch staged a reconstruction and appealed for information.[85]

Awards and memorial

In 1985, as a direct result of the events surrounding the police operation on the night of Blakelock’s death, a new “gold – silver – bronze command structure” was created that replaced ranks with roles. It is now used by all UK emergency services at every type of major incident.

In 1988 the constables of Serial 502 were awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal, Blakelock posthumously, while Sergeant David Pengelly—who fought to hold the crowd away from Blakelock and PC Richard Coombes after they fell—received the George Medal, awarded for acts of great bravery.[6] A memorial for Blakelock, commissioned by the Police Memorial Trust, now stands by the roundabout at Muswell Hill, north London, where he was a homebeat officer.[86]

In 2011 PC Richard Coombes was included by Ranulph Fiennes as one of the subjects for his book My Heroes: Extraordinary Courage, Exceptional People.[87]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Brain, Timothy. “Handsworth, Brixton, and Broadwater Farm”, A History of Policing in England and Wales from 1974: A Turbulent Journey. Oxford University Press, 2010, p. 106ff.
  2. ^ Newman, Keith. “Police-Public Relations: The Pace of Change”, Police Foundation lecture, July 1986, p. 1.
  3. ^ a b c Rose, David. “‘They created Winston Silcott, the beast of Broadwater Farm. And they won’t let this creation lie down and die'”, The Observer, 18 January 2004.
  4. ^ a b Bennett, Will. “Detectives cleared over Silcott case”, The Independent, 27 July 1994.
  5. ^ a b Edwards, Richard. “Ten arrests over murder of Pc Keith Blakelock”, The Daily Telegraph, 6 October 2010.
  6. ^ a b “Metropolitan Police Gallantry Awards”, History by the Yard. Retrieved 8 August 2011.
  7. ^ “PC Keith Blakelock Remembered”, Metropolitan Police, 8 July 2011.
  8. ^ “Honour for murdered Pc’s son”, BBC News, 16 April 2003. PC Blakelock is buried in East Finchley Cemetery.
  9. ^ Cohen, Nick. “Politics of the ghetto”, The Observer, 20 October 2005.
  10. ^ Brain 2010, p. 109.
  11. ^ “Woman whose shooting sparked Brixton riots”, The Daily Telegraph, 29 April 2011.
  12. ^ Rose, David. Climate of Fear: The Murder of PC Blakelock and the Case of the Tottenham Three. Bloomsbury Publishing Ltd, 1992, p. 53.
  13. ^ a b Jacobs, Brian. Black Politics and Urban Crisis in Britain. Cambridge University Press, 2009, pp. 190, 197.
  14. ^ Rose 1992, pp. 54–56.
  15. ^ For information about slum clearance, see “The Slum Clearance Movement in the Nineteen Thirties”, Retrieved 25 August 2011.
  16. ^ Rose 1992, pp. 27–30; for the demographics, see p. 77.
    • For the walkways turning the estate into “rabbit warrens,” and residents being afraid, see Jones, Cecily. “Broadwater Farm estate: pre-riot problems,” in Dabydeen, David; Gilmore, John; and Jones, Cecily. (eds). The Oxford Companion to Black British History. Oxford University Press, 2007, p. 72.
    • For the improvement, see Rayner, Jan. “In the shadow of the past”, The Observer, 19 October 2003.
  17. ^ a b Rose 1992, p 57.
  18. ^ Rose 1992, pp. 61–62, 64.
  19. ^ a b Brain 2010, p. 112.
  20. ^ Parry, Gareth; Ezard, John; and Rawnsley, Andrew. “Policeman killed in riot”, The Guardian, 7 October 1985.
  21. ^ a b “Interview with Dave Pengelly”, BBC Crimewatch, 26 October 2010.
  22. ^ “Tottenham riot reminds north London of Broadwater Farm riot in 1985”, The Daily Telegraph, 7 August 2011.
  23. ^ a b c d Harris, Paul. “The murder of PC Blakelock was so savage witnesses still shake at the memory”, The Daily Mail, 18 February 2010.
  24. ^ a b “Interview with Dave Coombes”, BBC Crimewatch, 26 October 2010.
  25. ^ Brain 2010, p. 113.
  26. ^ Rose 1992, pp. 85–86.
    • “Jury not to see horror pictures”, Evening Times, 27 January 1987.
    • Lloyd, Terry. News At Ten, ITN, 8 October 1985: “Witnesses say that having wrenched his riot helmet from him, his attackers then repeatedly stabbed him in the body, and continuously hacked away at his neck. PC Blakelock lost several fingers as he tried to defend himself before the attackers fled … Tonight Scotland Yard confirmed that the injuries were so grievous that it did appear the men were trying to behead the officer.”
    • McKillop, James. “Mob attempted to cut off policeman’s head, court told”, The Glasgow Herard, 22 January 1987.
  27. ^ Craig, Olga. “‘They butchered Keith Blakelock and they wanted to butcher me'”, The Daily Telegraph, 3 October 2004.
  28. ^ a b Rose 1992, pp. 72–73.
  29. ^ “Pc’s widow in 1985 murder appeal”, BBC News, 6 October 2005.
  30. ^ a b Rose 1992, pp. 78–79.
  31. ^ Dillon, Joe. “Millions have lost a friend”, The Independent, 9 April 2000.
  32. ^ Rose 1992, pp. 80–81.
  33. ^ Rose 1992. pp. 82–83.
  34. ^ Victor, Peter. “Silcott officer will return in triumph”, The Independent on Sunday, 31 July 1994.
  35. ^ Rose 1992, pp. 86–88.
  36. ^ Pallister, David. “Relatives renew Tottenham Three case plea”, The Guardian, 19 March 1991.
  37. ^ Rose 1992, pp. 174–175.
  38. ^ Rose 1992, p. 186.
  39. ^ Rose 1992, pp. 110–112.
  40. ^ a b c d Rose 1992, pp. 140–145.
  41. ^ Rose 1992, pp. 104–107, 109.
  42. ^ Rose 1992, p. 50
  43. ^ Rose 1992, p. 116.
  44. ^ Rose 1992, pp. 151–152.
  45. ^ Rose 1992, p. 115.
  46. ^ Rose 1992, p. 89.
  47. ^ Casciani, Dominic. “Winston Silcott: An infamous past”, BBC News, 20 October 2003.
  48. ^ Rose 1992, pp. 21–27.
  49. ^ Bennetto, Jason. “Silcott to be released 18 years after Blakelock murder case”, The Independent, 16 October 2003.
  50. ^ Rose, David. “Focus: In the Face of Prejudice”, The Independent, 20 September 1998.
  51. ^ Rose 1992, pp. 91–94.
  52. ^ Rose 1992, pp. 230–233.
  53. ^ Rose 1992, pp. 234–235.
  54. ^ Rose 1992, p. 116ff.
  55. ^ a b c d e “Detectives ‘fabricated Silcott evidence'”, The Independent, 29 June 1994.
  56. ^ a b Rose 1992, pp. 132–133, 187.
  57. ^ Palliser, David. “Why Met caved in and paid Silcott”, The Guardian, 23 October 1999.
  58. ^ Rose 1992, p. 227.
  59. ^ Taylor, Diane. “Fall guy”, The Guardian, 13 November 2002.
  60. ^ Barling, Kurt. “Winston Silcott: Not free yet”, BBC News, 27 February 2004.
  61. ^ a b McDougall, Dan. “Winston Silcott calls for inquiry into PC Blakelock murder case”, The Scotsman, 3 March 2004.
  62. ^ Rose 1992, pp. 160–161. Broomfield was later convicted of an unrelated murder.
  63. ^ a b Gudjonsson, Gisli H. The Psychology of Interrogations and Confessions: A Handbook. John Wiley and Sons, 2003, pp. 464, 616.
  64. ^ a b Rose 1992, pp. 162–164.
  65. ^ Rose 1992, pp. 169–170.
  66. ^ a b Rose 1992, pp. 172–173.
  67. ^ Rose 1992, p. 182–183.
  68. ^ Rose 1992, p. 128, 133.
  69. ^ Rose 1992, p. 193–195.
  70. ^ Rose 1992, p. 203.
  71. ^ Rose 1992, pp. 206–207, 211.
  72. ^ a b Rose 1992, pp. 214–215.
  73. ^ Brain 2010, pp. 185–186.
    • R v. Raghip and others 1991 is regarded as a landmark ruling, because it recognised that “interrogative suspectability” might make a confession unreliable. See Gudjonsson, Gisli H. The Psychology of Interrogations and Confessions: A Handbook. John Wiley and Sons, 2003, pp. 464, 616.
  74. ^ “Silcott police pay-out ‘disgraceful'”, BBC News, 16 October 1999.
  75. ^ “Silcott freed from jail”, BBC News, 20 October 2003.
  76. ^ “Police face trial”, The Independent, 12 July 1992.
  77. ^ Bennett, Will. “Key ‘witness’ was not called to give evidence”, The Independent, 27 July 1994.
  78. ^ Bennetto, Jason. “Blakelock and Nickell cases in review of 300 unsolved murders, The Independent, 26 March 1999.
  79. ^ Bennetto, Jason. “Britain’s most feared Yardie leader jailed”, The Independent, 21 May 2002.
  80. ^ “Remembering PC Keith Blakelock”, Metropolitan Police, 6 October 2010.
  81. ^ a b Laville, Sandra. “PC Keith Blakelock murder: man arrested 25 years after killing”, The Guardian, 9 February 2010.
  82. ^ Mowling, Rebecca. “Dramatic Blakelock find”, London Evening Standard, 29 September 2004.
  83. ^ “DNA test for Blakelock’s uniform”, BBC News, 3 October 2004.
  84. ^ O’Neill, Sean. “Two men held over PC Blakelock murder”, The Times, 2 June 2010.
  85. ^ “PC Keith Blakelock murder”, BBC Crimewatch, 26 October 2010.
  86. ^ “1985 PC Keith Blakelock”, Police Memorial Trust.
  87. ^ Fiennes, R. (2011), My Heroes: Extraordinary Courage, Exceptional People, Hodder & Stoughton Ltd, ISBN 978-1-4447-2242-0


  • Brain, Timothy. A History of Policing in England and Wales from 1974: A Turbulent Journey. Oxford University Press, 2010.
  • Rose, David. Climate of Fear: The Murder of PC Blakelock and the Case of the Tottenham Three. Bloomsbury Publishing Ltd, 1992.
  • Jacobs, Brian. Black Politics and Urban Crisis in Britain. Cambridge University Press, 2009.
  • Gudjonsson, Gisli H. The Psychology of Interrogations and Confessions: A Handbook. John Wiley and Sons, 2003.

Further reading

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4 Responses to The Unsolved Racist Murder of Keith Blakelock

  1. Peter says:

    Why does every reference to “racist murders” have to be prefaced by the mentioning of a certain black youth whose name the world has heard a million times?
    Don’t keep mentioning the names of the other side’s martyrs.
    Just keep mentioning our own: Gavin Hopley, Mark Clayton, Andrew Steventon, Nicholas Pearton, jack Large, Billy Ward, Terry May, Anthony Donelly, Danny O’Shea, Timothy Baxter, Daniel Batten, etc., etc., etc. ..

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