Stars death galvanises a community
David Emmanuel, also known as the reggae artist Smiley Culture, died of a single stab wound to the heart during a police raid on his home on 15th March 2011. Smiley had hits in the 1980s with songs such as “Cockney Translation” and “Police Officer”—a song about being stopped and searched for cannabis possession. The police claim that he had stabbed himself while in his kitchen. But many questions remain over how he died while police officers were in his home in Warlingham, Surrey.
Friends and family demanded a full investigation into how he came to die while in police custody. The case was referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) for investigation. In an initial statement the IPCC said that officers on the scene claim the wound was self inflicted. This claim is part of an ongoing investigation.
But this version of events was resoundingly rejected by those who knew Smiley best – including friends and family members – at a packed meeting at Brixton Town Hall, London. Merlin Emmanuel, Smiley’s nephew, told the crowd: “Smiley is the only person who could tell us what really happened and he’s not here.
“However, I say that under section 18, the police have a duty of care to look after suspects in their custody and keep him or her safe, therefore the protocol and the standard procedure should be, and is, to handcuff the suspect.
“The police failed miserably to enforce these simple procedures and, as a consequence, my uncle David Emmanuel, also known as Smiley Culture, is dead.”
He concluded; “Let’s put it in perspective,” he said. “In the last decade almost 400 people have died in police custody—that’s nearly one a week. But not one police officer has been brought to account or been charged with anything”.
Statement from Matilda MacAttram, director of Black Mental Health UK
“Since the death of David Oluwale, in 1969, no officer has ever been convicted of a death of a person in custody.
“Latest figures show that there have been on average over 500 deaths a year of people while in the custody of the state. Health campaigners note with concern that 62% of these deaths have been of people detained under the Mental Health Act. This was highlighted by recent tragic death of Kingsley Burrell Brown, who sadly lost his life after he was restrained by police officers, while he was detained under the Mental Health Act.
“The frequency of these disturbing events has made this an issue of national concern”.
Statement from Lee Jasper
“The death in police custody of Smiley Culture after the police raided his home leaves Surrey Police with a lot of questions to answer as far as I am concerned.
“There are reliable witness statements that confirm that Smiley was alive when the police arrived and after allowing others in the house to leave the property; the police version of events is that Smiley stabbed himself.
“Surely Smiley was handcuffed as in normal practice during any raid to prevent the suspect disposing of evidence, harming officers or him? How is it that he managed to stab himself whilst in handcuffs?
“Secondly how did he get hold of a knife when surrounded by police officers? He would have been closely monitored and guarded by police officers and an officer would have supervised his every move.
“Thirdly how is it, if we accept he did stab himself and – I have severe doubts about that – how is it he is surrounded by officer and yet they could not prevent him from doing so?
“Finally once he was injured why could they not apply first aid and call for immediate medical assistance to save his life? What time did they arrive at the property and what time was the ambulance actually called? This death in police custody will raise lots of critical questions and I would advise both Surrey Police and the Independents Police Complaints Commission that they need to come up with answers and quickly of they are to avoid a serious decrease in police community relations”.
The official release from Scotland Yard was; “Officers from the Metropolitan police service’s serious and organised crime command attended a residential address in east Surrey to carry out an arrest warrant. While they were at the address, an incident occurred during which a 48-year-old man died.”
A postmortem examination confirmed that Smiley’s death was caused by a single stab wound through his heart. The family responded with the following statement;
“the postmortem has strengthened their resolve to uncover the truth behind the ‘most bizarre of circumstances’. They say they will employ an independent pathologist to verify the cause of death”.
‘Smiley Culture is no drug dealer’, says singer’s nephew
8 November 2012
Smiley Culture Remembered One Year On
15 March 2012
Smiley Culture’s death: ‘I don’t believe my dad ended his life’
2 September 2011