Socialist Worker

'Secret' report damns police

by Hassan Mahamdallie
Issue No. 1670

'NOW EVERYONE can see why the Metropolitan Police wanted no one to see this report.' So said a bitter Sukhdev Reel last week after her MP, John McDonnell, and Hackney MP Diane Abbot used parliamentary privilege to read out a damning report on the police investigation into her son Ricky's death.

Ricky's body was dragged from the River Thames in Kingston two years ago. The last time he was seen alive he and his friends were being chased by racists. But the police refused to believe Ricky was murdered and instead insisted he was drunk and fell into the river.

The inquest into his death is due to open in west London next week. The Police Complaints Authority report was carried out by Surrey Police and has been under lock and key at Scotland Yard since last August. Sir Paul Condon, the Met's chief, has repeatedly refused to publish the report. The Reel family have had to fight to even get a sight of it.

At first the Metropolitan Police refused point blank to show the family the report. Then they gave the family a six page 'summary' with all the crucial bits taken out. Then they allowed Sukhdev to see the report but only after they made her promise that she told no one else what it had to say!

But last week the two London MPs told parliament that the PCA report shows:

  • Vital CCTV video evidence from the night of Ricky's death was lost: 'Property records at Kingston police station showed that a video tape from British Rail at Kingston had been seized by a policeman and deposited in the property store. The tape was not viewed. Its existence was not drawn to the attention of investigating officers and on 17 November 1997 the tape was destroyed,' says the report. 'Video tapes from two restaurants may have provided information to the investigation had they been seized promptly, but they were not.'

  • 'The three friends of Ricky Reel were never shown any photos of known racist offenders or offenders who had been previously involved in racial attacks in the area, in an attempt to identify the youths involved in the racial attack on the group.'

  • 'The PCA inquiry revealed that no clothing or personal items retrieved from Ricky's body were subject to forensic examination. Details of his clothing were not recorded. The PCA called this decision 'difficult to justify'.'

  • 'On the post-mortem, no one was clear about who was in control of it and who should have been asking the right questions.'

  • 'The report reveals that no forensic analysis was conducted in the area where it was assumed Ricky entered the river. 'No fingerprint examination was made of the railing nearby and no foliage was taken. The PCA concluded that forensic examination might or might not have established the claim that the incident was an accident.'

  • 'The report states that a key element in the investigation was identifying the means of escape used by the earlier (racist) attackers. 'The inquiry highlighted the role of the No 281 bus, which the attackers may well have boarded. But the Metropolitan Police did not check the records of work or tickets on the No 281. This was 'a significant omission'.'

  • 'The Met made no inquiries in respect of Ricky's mobile phone usage that evening.'

    John McDonnell MP told the House of Commons that the PCA concluded that the police's investigation 'lacked focus and that it eliminated the racial incident too readily. The investigators came to the conclusion of accidental death before there was corroboration.'

    'I've been saying all along that the police made mistakes,' Sukhdev Reel told Socialist Worker. 'I knew this before I even saw the report. But it really sickened me when I read it. There were even more mistakes than I anticipated. Now people can see for themselves why my family have been struggling for justice for two years. The police never took Ricky's disappearance seriously. They didn't acknowledge the racial attack. Then when they dragged him from the river they closed the case. They didn't do anything.'

    UP TO 200 people attended a Ricky Reel memorial lecture in Kingston last Saturday night. Michael Mansfield QC praised the tenacity of Ricky's family and said the only way to get change in society is to fight from below. He pointed to the recent strike at Ford Dagenham as an example of the way to fight racism.

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    Article information

    Sat 30 Oct 1999, 00:00 BST
    Issue No. 1670
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