Thursday 21 September 2017

Chilling echo of unrest after officer killed

History repeats

Diana Pilkington

The disturbances that broke out after the fatal shooting of a young man by police evoke chilling memories of the Broadwater Farm riot 26 years ago.

On October 6, 1985, PC Keith Blakelock was hacked to death with a machete on the estate in Tottenham, north London, after he was set upon by a mob.

The riots were sparked by the death of 49-year-old Cynthia Jarrett after four police officers burst into her home.

In 1985, Mrs Jarrett's son Floyd was in custody at Tottenham police station over a matter relating to a car tax disc in which he had allegedly given officers a false name.

The ensuing police raid sparked panic in the Jarrett household and Mrs Jarrett, who had a weak heart, collapsed and died.

The next day a small crowd gathered in protest outside the police station.

Tempers escalated during the day as windows were broken and, at 3.15pm, two officers were attacked and seriously injured as the gathering mob began to launch bricks and gunfire broke out.

One of the pair suffered a ruptured spleen when a paving stone was thrown on to his back after he fell to the ground.

A police inspector who drove past the estate had his car window smashed soon after while a police van answering a 999 call was surrounded and attacked by a mob with machetes, bars and knives.

By the time the first riot control police arrived, the mob had put up barriers and prepared petrol bombs.

PC Blakelock's death came during attempts to support firemen after a blaze broke out at a newsagent's on the first floor of Tangmere block at 9.30pm.

The officer was surrounded by masked rioters wearing balaclavas and wielding sticks, knives and machetes before he was brutally hacked to death. He suffered 42 separate wounds.

The violence only began to ease off as news of PC Blakelock's death spread and rain began to fall.

About 250 police officers were injured in the clashes.

Three men were convicted of the killing in 1987 but later cleared on appeal.

The Broadwater Farm riots resulted in a review of senior police officer training in public order tactics, the introduction of armoured Land Rovers and the preferred tactic of "early resolution" by faster moving police units.

Irish Independent

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