published: July 2021
For those who know the name Dorothy ‘Cherry’ Groce, the extent of their knowledge likely begins and ends with the night she was shot by police in 1985. Officers in search of her son, Michael, raided Groce’s home in Brixton on the 28 of September while she was in bed. Four of her children were home, along with two children she was looking after that evening.
Shot in the shoulder, the mother of six was left paralysed from the chest down. After she died of kidney failure in 2011, a 2014 jury inquest found that the shooting and its resultant complications contributed to the 63-year-old’s death. The police officer who shot Groce was prosecuted but ultimately cleared of malicious wounding.
When word spread about what had happened to Groce, it angered her local community, sparking two days of disorder that would later come to be known as the 1985 Brixton Riot. Caught up in the middle of all this was a family left grieving their loved one.
On a Sunday morning, I met with three of Cherry’s children – Rose, Lee and Lisa Lawrence – at Lee’s home in south London. As they settled down to chat in the living room, it became clear that Lee – who has done decades of campaigning on behalf of his mother, and has written an award-winning memoir called The Louder I Will Sing – is much more at ease talking about their painful past. Rose and Lisa, who have been reluctant to give interviews in the past, took more time to share their memories of the incident that forever changed family life as they knew it.
After being catapulted into unexpected visibility years ago, Cherry Groce’s children have had decades to make sense of how their lives suddenly combusted that night in 1985.