Socialist Worker

Clifton McGowan's verdict on inquest

Issue No. 1757

Clifton McGowan's verdict on inquest

'It was like a police cover up'

THE INQUEST into the death of Errol McGowan recorded a verdict of suicide last week. Errol was a black man found hanged in the Shropshire town of Telford on 2 July 1999. Socialist Worker spoke to his brother, CLIFTON McGOWAN, about Errol's death, the police response and the inquest.


"I AM very disappointed with the verdict. The police wanted to make sure the jury backed up their decision not to do any forensics or treat Errol's death as a crime. Doctor Carey, a top pathologist, made it clear when he gave evidence to the inquest that there have been several attempts in the past to cover up a murder by making it look like suicide.

He demonstrated that one or two people can make someone unconscious long enough so that when they recover the fright and surprise could cause them to take their life accidentally. The jury did not take this into consideration. Paul Millan, a forensics specialist, was also appalled at the way the police treated the crime scene.

The family knew before the inquest that an all-white jury would not have considered evidence that exposed the police's racist views. That was why we wanted the inquest to be held in another area where a mixed race jury could have been chosen.

The verdict was no shock to us. Throughout the inquest I noted that the jury did not make any notes when our barrister was cross-examining anyone. They looked as if they weren't interested.

But their eyes were wide open and their ears pricked up listening to the police barrister when he was bombarding and provoking people. On several occasions witnesses got overwrought with his way of questioning. I'm concerned that it was still the West Mercia police that did the new investigation into Errol's death.

Some of the officers who did the original botched job were allowed to continue the investigation. The one thing the inquest has made quite clear is that the police cannot be trusted when they claim they have an open mind. They tried to bamboozle the family into believing this.

We could see through the curtains of lies. The police decided on 3 July, the day after the body was found, that the only investigation they would be doing would be into suicide.

At a meeting it was made clear to us that they would not do any forensics or fingerprinting on Errol's body to rule in or out whether somebody else was involved in the death.

They didn't want to take the racial harassment that Errol had suffered as part of the investigation. On 2 July they knew of the harassment. There is a police document that shows this. But at 7pm when they met with the family they did not bring any documentation of this.

We explained the racial harassment to them. They told us that if we wanted to investigate whether there was another person involved in Errol's death we had to bring them evidence proving this. It was just like a police cover-up, and the family's feelings were never taken into account.

No thorough research was ever done of the house where Errol was found. The police advised the pathologist that Errol's death was suicide. He then did not run an investigation into the cause of death and could not answer any of the questions which needed answering.

Again the police were leading all of the experts down one road only-suicide. So how can they claim that it was an open-minded investigation?"


Still fighting to get justice

'THE McGOWAN Family Campaign is planning a national demonstration in Telford in late September. The family will continue to demand that the police prosecute the racist gang who harassed Errol.

I believe that this is all part of the institutional racism that lives and breathes in the West Mercia police force. The police have treated us diabolically. What the police were saying and what they were doing were two different things. What the McGowan family campaign proves is that, like Stephen Lawrence's family, we had to campaign to get anywhere.

I would like to thank Deborah Todd, the campaign chair, for all her work. If it hadn't been for her, half of what we've achieved wouldn't have happened.|


Errol was stalked by racists

IN THE months leading up to his death a racist gang had targeted Errol. Clifton explains: "On numerous occasions Errol and his work colleagues who suffered racial harassment visited the police and reported the people who were harassing them. The police had sufficient information to visit those people. They also should have kept an eye on Errol, especially in the pub where he worked.

Errol was going to be a prosecution witness against these men after they had attacked a group of Asians in a fast food restaurant. Jason McGowan's dad was approached by a gang of white youths in the pub where Errol was working.

"Why are there niggers working on the door?" they said to him. This was reported to the police. Lots of things happened which were passed on to the police. They can't just say that they didn't know enough to stop the harassment of Errol.

There have been several other deaths in Telford of people who were in Errol's social circle. Errol's nephew Jason McGowan and family friend Johny Elliot were found dead, hanging in very suspicious circumstances. Jason, like the rest of the McGowan family, wanted to get to the bottom of Errol's death. He lost his life in the pursuit of the truth. There is going to be an inquest into Jason's death in the autumn.

At the coroner's request Errol's inquest did not look into the circumstances of these deaths."


Met bans critics

THE MAKERS of the film Injustice, which police officers are trying to suppress, have vowed to fight on and show the film despite the threat of legal action. A documentary about families struggling for justice after loved ones died in police custody was supposed to be shown on Friday of last week at the Metro cinema in central London.

It was cancelled after solicitors representing the serving police officers implicated in the deaths threatened to sue the Metro. Solicitors Russell, Jones and Walker sent a letter to the Metro 19 minutes before the scheduled screening.

It made inaccurate claims about the film's contents. One of the officers they represent is not even named in the film. The film took seven years to make. It tells the story of the fight for the truth by the families of the dead including Ibrahima Sey and Shiji Lapite. Their inquest verdicts were "unlawful killing".

Irene Stanley, widow of Harry Stanley, said, "They are taking away our right to show a film which tells the truth. We were really angry and frustrated. "It isn't just the Police Federation, we are fighting the government here. We are so angry with Tony Blair and the Home Office."

Injustice was due to be screened on Wednesday of this week at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London.


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News
Sat 14 Jul 2001, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1757
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