Death sparks community protests
compiled from various sources
4WardEver Campaign – 23rd December 2008
Any news updates on this case will be listed at the foot of this item
On 5th October 1985 four police officers went to search the home of Mrs Cynthia Jarrett, near the Broadwater Farm housing estate in Tottenham. Mrs Jarrett’s son Floyd was in custody at Tottenham police station having given a false name when found in a car with an inaccurately made out tax disc. The visit caused panic among some of the occupants, and in the furore Jarrett’s mother, Mrs Cynthia Jarrett, collapsed. She was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital.
The Jarrett’s home was close to the Broadwater Farm Estate. The death caused tensions to mount. That period was in any case already tense. A week earlier in Brixton, a black woman named Cherry Groce had been shot by police during another raid and paralysed below the waist.
It began with a modest crowd of young men “demonstrating” outside Tottenham police station at the death of Mrs Jarrett. As matters escalated, two home Beat officers were attacked and seriously injured by a brick-throwing crowd, one of them having his spleen ruptured by a paving stone thrown onto his back when he had fallen.
Following a protest meeting where responsible community leaders proposing a motion of complaint were shouted down, a police inspector driving past the estate was attacked and had his car window smashed. A police van answering a 999 call was surrounded, attacked and severely damaged by a mob with machetes, bars and knives.
By the time the first riot control police arrived the angry crowds had put up barriers and prepared petrol bombs. Cordons of police officers in riot gear suffered a prolonged attack from rioters, including gunfire, until the estate was restored to order some hours later.
One officer, PC Richard Coombes was slashed across the face. Another, PC Keith Blakelock, was surrounded by masked and balaclava’d rioters armed with sticks, knives and a machete who proceeded to hack him to death. No one has ever been successfully tried or convicted for his murder.
Haringey’s black mayor, Bernie Grant, was widely reported in the media after making the statement that the police had been given “a bloody good hiding”. The incident resulted in a review of senior officers’ training in public order tactics, the introduction of armoured Land Rovers and the preferred tactic of ‘early resolution’ by faster moving police units with short as well as long shields.
In the days that followed the riot about one in ten of the black youths of Broadwater Farm were taken in for questioning. Six were charged with murder. One of these, Jason Hill, was only 13. In the event two of them, Engin Raghip and Mark Braithwaite were found guilty, along with Winston Silcott.
Silcott became a national hate figure – “the smiling killer” – fuelled by enthusiastic media reporting of the trial and verdict. There was never any sound evidence against him or the others, and subsequent forensic tests on the police notes of Silcott’s “confession” showed that some sections had been “added” later.
The three men became the “Broadwater Three” and the subject of a sustained campaign to get them freed. They were all duly acquitted on appeal in 1987. Two police officers were later tried in connection with their prosecutions, but were also found not guilty. The whole affair was deeply unsatisfactory from all sides.
A history of the Broadwater Farm
Lessons still to be learned after policeman’s murder
12 October 2006
Transforming Broadwater Farm
6 October 2005
Exclusive: Winston Silcott hits back
22 August 2005