Blair Peach And Officer E.
English understatement is wonderful, it’s a bit confusing for “foreigners”, even native English speakers as it were, but when you read the reports of Blair Peach’s murder it pops up time after time, but not in a good way.
Rather than state the obvious fact that Blair Peach was murdered by a policeman news reports invoke English understatement to diminish the severity of Blair Peach’s murder.
A few examples, over at BBC News:
“A police officer is likely to have “struck the fatal blow” which killed a protester in west London 31 years ago, a Scotland Yard report reveals.
Anti-racism activist Blair Peach died after he was hit during clashes with police officers in Southall in 1979.
The previously secret report attaches “grave suspicion” to an officer, who it says may also have been involved in a cover-up along with two colleagues.
The Metropolitan Police said no officers would face further action.”
Well, it certainly wouldn’t have been anyone else.
There were no National Front around that area and groups of police officers were periodically going into the crowd and streets in a very aggressive fashion (ops, English understatement again) that is attacking people with truncheons.
So when Blair Peach suffered a head injury from a blunt object it doesn’t take Inspector Morse two weeks to work out who would have done it, a group of Metropolitan Police SPG officers, and only them.
The Metropolitan police were culpable for Blair Peach’s murder and no invocation of English understatement will change that.
Update 1: I should have added that successive governments and the Metropolitan police have blocked the publication of the Cass report, which was written between July 1979 and May 1980.
Yes, that’s correct. Its publication was deliberately obstructed by politicians and police officers for over 30 years. Even a comparatively recent freedom of information request in 2008, was rejected.
Update 2: The Cass Report is here, in a rather sloppy format (a lot of scanned type written pages) which doesn’t lend itself to easy reading, plus the fact it has been redacted.
Update 3: The Indy on the Cass Report:
“The officers involved made “false statements” regarding details surrounding his death, a previously secret report found.
Met police chief Sir Paul Stephenson said the report made “uncomfortable reading” but despite this the force insisted that nobody involved would face prosecution.
Mr Peach’s partner Celia Stubbs said the findings “vindicated” her belief that the activist was killed by police.
The document – written by Commander John Cass, a former senior officer at the Met’s internal complaints department, singled out the actions of the three officers, named as E, H and F.
He wrote: “The most serious aspect of this case has, without doubt, been the obstruction of the investigating officer in execution of their duty.”
Commander Cass recommended the three officers should face prosecution.
He added: “I strongly recommend that proceedings be taken against Officer E, Officer H and Officer F for obstructing police in the execution of their duty, conspiring to do so, and attempting or conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.”
Mr Peach was struck on the head during the protest on April 23 1979. He died in hospital of head injuries the next day.
Some 14 witnesses reported seeing him being hit by a police officer.
The names of the officers and witnesses involved were removed from the report for legal reasons.
Police insisted this had not been done to prevent embarrassment to the force.
The report said it could “reasonably be concluded that a police officer struck the fatal blow”.
It continued: “The attitude and untruthfulness of some of the officers involved is a contributory factor. “
Update 4: Not unsurprisingly an ex-former Inspector in charge of the SPG group tries to blames someone:
“In July, former Scotland Yard inspector Alan Murray, who led a unit of the Special Patrol Group, said that he believed Mr Peach was murdered or unlawfully killed, but not by police.
Mr Murray, now a 59-year-old Sheffield University lecturer, denied killing Mr Peach and said he did not believe anyone in his unit was responsible. The former officer said the inquiry was flawed and a verdict of death by misadventure at Mr Peach’s inquest was “inappropriate”.
The Metropolitan Police reiterated that despite the findings of the report none of those involved would face further action for Mr Peach’s death.”
Update 4: What was in their lockers?
“Some of the statements given by the six officers contradicted each other. Others, warned Commander Cass, felt like a cover-up.
Officer F, the van’s driver, said that E and H had “got out of the carrier on the corner and went straight into the crowd”.
Officer F’s police station locker was searched and investigators found a lead cosh, and other truncheon-like weapons. He denied having them with him at Southall.
Officer E was subjected to lengthy questioning because the circumstances indicated that he could have been responsible for the blow. When detectives accused him of trying to mislead them, his solicitor advised him not to answer any more questions.
“[Officer E] has not given a credible account of his movements and it is disturbing,” Commander Cass wrote.
“There was no doubt that he was suffering from stress which together with his driving personality attaches to him grave suspicion, if not as the officer responsible but for concealing it.
“He has since transferred from the Special Patrol Group. He is a [redacted] and I have reason to believe he was well thought of with potential for high rank.”
But Commander Cass said there was insufficient evidence to charge any officer with the death.
“Whilst it can reasonably be concluded that a police officer struck the fatal blow, and that that officer came from carrier 1-1, I am sure that it will be agreed that the present situation is far from satisfactory and disturbing.
“The attitude and untruthfulness of some of the officers involved is a contributory factor.”
He went on: “The most serious aspect of this case has, without doubt, been the obstruction of the investigating officer in the execution of their duty.”
“It can be clearly seen from the various statements and records of interviews with these officers that their explanations were seriously lacking and in the case of Officer E, Officer F and Officer H, there was deliberate attempt to conceal the presence of the carrier at the scene at the vital time.”
Update 5: The Sause has excellent background information:
The identities of the six officers who travelled to Beachcroft Avenue where Peach was attacked in patrol van Unit 1 have been dedacted from the report despite the fact they attended an open inquest a year after Peach died.
The dedactions are likely to have been made because the force has not found conclusive evidence that the six officers named by Cass were the most likely to have inflicted the fatal blow.
Inspector Alan Murray was in charge of Number One Unit SPG on the day of Peach’s death. He resigned from the force in the Summer of 1980 to join his brother in a jewellery business in Scotland. He is now now a lecturer in corporate social responsibility at Sheffield University.
The other officers in the van were PC Anthony Richardson who had been with the SPG for six months; PC Michael Freestone, who claimed he was transferred out of the unit because it was “politically expedient; PC Raymond ‘Chalkie’ White, the van driver; PC James Scottow believed to have told Peach to get ‘on your bike’ after the blow and Sgt Anthony Lake who was driving a second van.
A PC Greville Bint, part of Unit One, is understood not to have been among the officers whose identities was dedacted. He gave conflicting evidence to the original inquest about where he got in and out of the van at the time of Peach’s death.
Durnig a search of SPG lockers Bint was found to have been in possession of a lead weighed plaited leather covered stick, Nazi regalia, bayonets, German awards and medals from the first and second world wars. he was transferred out of the riot squad to Brixton in June 1979.
The names of the officers in Unit 1 are recorded in David Ransom’s book, The Blair Peach Case: Licence to Kill which was published by the Friends of Blair Peach Committee. The six officers named by the Cass report were leaked to the Lobster magazine and also published in the Sunday Times.”
Update 6: ITV News has fair coverage:
Update 7: This clip provides a reasonable report of why problems started in Southall, the Met Police’s desire to protect the NF:
Update 7: Remembering Blair Peach: 30 years on by Chris Searle from 2009 is a must read.
Update 9: Bob has some good links.