Fathers' Day Vigils for Those Who Died in Police Custody - London
Families of men killed by police held vigils on Fathers' Day outside police stations across the country. At Brixton, the family of Ricky Bishop was joined by the sisters of Sean Rigg, whose inquest 4 years after his death there is currently news.
Families of men killed by police held vigils on Father's Day outside police stations across the country. At Brixton, the family of Ricky Bishop was joined by the sisters of Sean Rigg, whose inquest 4 years after his death there is currently news.
Samantha and Marcia Rigg brought photographs of their brother Sean, killed inside Brixton Police Station on 21 August 2008, framed them and nailed them to the memorial tree outside the station. The inquest, which began on 11 June is continuing and expected to last six weeks. It will bring into the open an appalling story involving both police and the IPCC in misleading the family and press, covering up rather than investigating what happened, failing to properly investigate and destroying evidence.
The most vital evidence is of course the CCTV footage of the yard where Rigg acquired the injuries to his face that the family only discovered when after over 40 hours their requests to see his body were finally granted. Police first told them that there was no CCTV camera, but then being taken to see the scene were told it had not been working at the time. It remains to be seen whether the police will find and release the video for the inquest or if it has been destroyed.
Police failed to take the normal steps to investigate the area where Riggs death occurred, and the arresting officers were only questioned by the IPCC eight months after the event. Today I heard that the custody suite - which the inquest jury were expected to visit to help them understand some of the evidence - has now been completely destroyed without a proper record being made of it.
Both police and IPCC issued misleading statements about the death - and the IPCC was forced to make an apology. The family have campaigned tirelessy to have his case properly investigated and to find the truth of what happened. As they say, his is not an isolated case, and there are many many others, but their campaign may at last force the police and IPCC to change their behaviour.
Before the start of the inquest the Rigg family issued a statement: "We have been battling for nearly four years to find out the truth of what happened to our brother that night. Sean was doing great things in his life and it was devastating his life was cut short in this way.
"Sean should have been safe in the care of the police and the mental health services. We believe his death was wholly avoidable and welcome the chance for the evidence to be finally aired publicly and properly scrutinised." They are mow unavailable for comment until the end of the inquest.
The vigil at Brixton was organised by the Ricky Bishop Campaign, remembering another victim of Brixton's Police. They stopped a car in which he was a passenger, claimed that he had a small amount of cocaine and took him to the station. He offered no resistance to arrest or when being held in the police station, but four hours later he was dead. At his inquest the judge denied the jury the option of a verdict of manslaughter. Bishop's family are continuing their campaign for justice, including the arrest and trial for murder of the twelve police officers they name and say were his killers. Pictures of Ricky Bishop were also on the memorial tree which was hung with lanterns containing burning candles, and members of his family and campaign held a banner and sat quietly throughout the three hour vigil.
Towards the end of the vigil a woman came up to the Rigg sisters and told them about her relative who also died in Brixton Police station. She said his name was Colin Bardley and that was beaten to death there around 30 years ago. His was a name new to the campaigners who have a very long list of several thousand deaths in custody. The official statistics are deliberately (if not criminally) misleading and record only a small fraction of such deaths. A report published by the Independent Advisory Panel on Deaths in Custody in 2011 states:
in total, there were 5,998 deaths recorded for the 11 years from 2000 to 2010. This is an average of 545 deaths per year. Despite the fact there have been 11 unlawful killing verdicts since 1990 there has never been a successful prosecution.
Sean Rigg's case is a vital one, as was Stephen Lawrence's. Out of his killing came the Macpherson Report with its verdict that the Metropolitan Police Force was "institutionally racist" and some action - if not yet enough - resulted. This case may just lead to a similar upheaval in police practice, taking the police towards a greater openess and attacking the incredible conspiracy of the police and legal system to cover up and protect its own.
Among the other vigils taking place on Father's day were those at at Birmingham West Midlands Police HQ and in High Wycombe for Habib ‘Paps’ Ullah, Manchester for Anthony Grainger, Slough for Philmore Mills and New Scotland Yard for Azelle Rodney. In a statement Susan Alexander, the mother of Azelle Rodney said:
It is now approaching 8 years since my son Azelle Rodney was killed by the Met Police in April 2005, shot 7 times in the face, neck and back. Over the years we have cried, campaigned, walked alongside hundreds of other bereaved families and often alone seeking answers, the truth and justice. We are now entering into a public inquiry (September 2012). The Fathers Day Vigil is another opportunity to show a united front... we've got to keep moving on.