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Apr 27

The Murder of Blair Peach

Posted on Tuesday, April 27, 2010 in civil liberties, freedom of speech, human rights, Politics

The Metropolitan Police killed teacher/activist Blair Peach at an anti-fascist rally in 1979:

The anti-fascist protester Blair Peach was almost certainly killed by police at a demonstration in 1979, according to a secret report released today.

Documents published on the Metropolitan police’s website shed new light on the death of Peach, a 33-year-old teacher from New Zealand, whose death marked one of the most controversial events in modern policing history.

A campaigner against the far right, Peach died from a blow to the head during a demonstration against the National Front in Southall, west London.

A crucial report into the death, which Peach’s family have campaigned to see for more than 30 years, was finally released today. It said it could “reasonably be concluded that a police officer struck the fatal blow”. A police van carrying six officers was identified as having been at the scene when the fatal blow was struck.

Except of course this doesn’t tell the whole story. The Met want you to think that it’s all gone murky, that the killer can’t possibly be found and that releasing this report should draw a line under the matter once and for all. The evidence suggests otherwise:

• suspicions centred on the SPG carrier U.11, the first vehicle to arrive on Beechcroft Avenue, the street where Peach was found staggering around and concussed. [Commander John] Cass said there was an “indication” that one officer in particular, who first emerged from the carrier but whose name has been redacted from the report, was responsible;

• the criminal investigation into Peach’s death was hampered by SPG officers, who Cass concluded had lied to him to cover up the actions of their colleagues. He “strongly recommended” that three officers should be charged with conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, giving detailed evidence to show how they were engaged in a “deliberate attempt to conceal the presence of the carrier at the scene at that time”. None were ever charged;

So the Met knows who murdered Peach, and knows who covered it up? Can someone in the know explain why they aren’t being charged now? The problems continue:

It was already known that when Cass raided lockers at the SPG headquarters he uncovered a stash of unauthorised weapons, including illegal truncheons, knives, two crowbars, a whip, a 3ft wooden stave and a lead-weighted leather stick.

One officer was caught trying to hide a metal cosh, although it was not the weapon that killed Peach. Another officer was found with a collection of Nazi regalia.

In his report, Cass said the arsenal of weapons caused him “grave concern”, but claimed there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the officers involved.

A total of 14 witnesses told investigators they saw “a police officer hit the deceased on the head” but, according to Cass, there were discrepancies in their evidence and most could not identify the officer.

Insufficient evidence? What should we make of Commander Cass, when he’d seen what seems abundantly sufficient evidence, yet labelled it ‘insufficient’? And why then should it be abundantly clear to others who killed Peach:

The six officers with the SPG (the forerunners of today’s brutal and equally notorious TSG) are known to be Insp Murray, PC White, PC Richardson, PC Scottow, PC Freestone and PS Lake. Although the published version has been censored by the Met to obscure the truth it seems impossible to avoid the conclusion that Blair Peach was killed by a blow from Inspector Murray’s police radio.

Duncan Campbell argues:

It is shameful that it has taken so long for the report to be published. It would be more shameful if the lessons in it – about honesty and transparency and about the dangers of creating an elite force-within-a-force like the SPG then and the Territorial Support Group now – were not recognised.

They’re still not being recognised, just as the lessons of the G20 protest last year haven’t been learned. Indeed just recently Sergeant Delroy Smellie was acquitted for his attack on a peaceful protester, following the Met’s killing of Ian Tomlinson. Not only was Smellie’s defence palpably absurd, but the reasons for his violent behaviour were never questioned. The current TSG might not be quite as bad as the SPG but having this elite force-within-a-force seems still to lead to a serious level of needless brutality, serious injury and death. And just what is happening about Ian Tomlinson? Any charges anyone?

British ‘justice’ – nothing changes.

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