Police fail another murdered black man
Jay Abatan, 42, from Eastbourne , was attacked while waiting at a taxi rank outside the Ocean Rooms club in 1999. He was set upon by two white males following a row as he waited at a taxi rank with his brother Michael. The father-of-two, who was celebrating promotion with Pricewaterhouse Coopers, hit his head on the pavement and lay in a coma for five days before his life support machine was turned off. Graham Curtis, 41, and 39-year-old Peter Bell were arrested within 24 hours of the assault, but manslaughter charges against the pair were later dropped.
They were instead charged with affray and causing actual bodily harm to Michael Abatan, but were acquitted. In September 2003 the body of Graham Curtis was found at his home in Port Hall Road in Brighton by a member of his family. He had committed suicide following bouts of depression.
At the time, Jay’s family said it was a racist killing, although officers said they did not believe the attack was racially motivated. Doreen Lawrence, the mother of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence, is a supporter of the Abatan campaign for justice.
In September 2004 three senior police officers faced a misconduct tribunal over the killing of Jay Abatan. It was complaints from the Abatan family Complaints by Mr Abatan’s family that the killing had not been investigated fully which prompted two reviews of the inquiry by Essex and Avon and Somerset Police.
In May 2004, an IPCC report into the inquiry found key officers had made crucial errors in the early stages of the investigation. In June 2005 two Sussex police inspectors who investigated the death had misconduct charges upheld. Detective Inspectors Andy Young and Martin Sapwell appeared at Sussex Police Headquarters in Lewes.
One received two cautions while the other was given a reprimand at the disciplinary hearing on Wednesday. DI Sapwell faced four charges of which two were upheld in part while DI Young faced nine charges of which three were upheld and one upheld in part.
At a separate hearing at the beginning of 2005, a detective superintendent involved in the investigation accepted five misconduct charges against him and was fined nine days pay. A statement released by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) after the tribunal read: “Graphic evidence emerged that the original criminal investigation had suffered from disorganisation and was not given sufficient resources.”
Jay’s brother, Michael, and other family members campaigned to force a review into how the murder investigation was handled. Jay’s partner, Tanya Haynes, said: “In the officers’ defence they have exposed the true nature of the horrors of this investigation and how significantly flawed it was.”
In January 2007 a candlelit vigil was being held to mark the eighth anniversary of Jay’s death. The vigil held outside Brighton Police Station, was led by his brother Michael, was meant to highlight the family’s call for a fresh inquiry into the incident.
Sussex Police have said their inquiry is ongoing and apologised to the family for an earlier investigation. Doreen Lawrence commented on the case saying: “When Stephen was murdered in a racist attack we were treated as second class citizens due to the colour of our skin. People want to believe that racism has gone away – our experience proves otherwise.
“The police admitted to institutional racism and claimed to make steps to change. The fact that the failures around Jay Abatan’s murder investigation happened after the publication of the Lawrence Inquiry is an indictment of the institutional racism that we faced, which is alive and well in Britain today. Until this is addressed, the black communities will not see justice or equality.
“I fully support Jay’s family in their campaign for justice. I do not want to see another family go through what we have been through.
“The police must address the failures in this case if they are to prove they have learnt the lessons of the Lawrence Inquiry and look forward to the day when the black community’s lives are given the same value as others.”
Jay’s brother, Michael Abatan, held a vigil outside Brighton police station in January 2012 calling for justice after his brother was killed following the unprovoked attack as he waited for a taxi with his brother on 24 January 1999.
Following complaints from Mr Abatan’s family that the police investigation was not thorough enough, a critical review of the inquiry by Essex Police led to the original team of detectives being replaced.
A second review carried out by Avon and Somerset Constabulary, in which several officers were questioned, then found there had been failings.
Jay Abatan family demand inquiry
14 August 2014
Vigil for Brighton attack victim Jay Abatan
29 January 2012
Jay Abatan’s brother’s long fight for justice
25 October 2010
Justice for Jay Abatan – ‘an uphill struggle’
29 April 2004
Police ‘sloppy’ over inquiry into suspected race killing
5 February 2001