Socialist Worker

Cops knew of 'failings' within months of Cherry Groce’s shooting

by Annette Mackin
Issue No. 2412

The shooting of Cherry led to the 1985 Brixton riots, which was met with police brutality

Police brutality during the 1985 Brixton riots, which was sparked by the police shooting of black mother Cherry Groce (Pic: John Sturrock)

Police failings contributed to the death of Dorothy “Cherry” Groce, an inquest jury has found. 

Armed police shot Cherry as they raided her Brixton home looking for her son Michael. The bullet entered her chest and fragmented close to her spine, leaving her paralysed until her death in 2011.

Medical evidence given at the inquest linked Cherry’s death at the age of 63 from kidney failure directly to the bullet wound she suffered.

Metropolitan police chief Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe has been forced to apologise “unreservedly”. But the inquest exposed that the police knew about a string of failings within months of the shooting. 

An internal report included the fact that the search warrant to raid Cherry’s home was based on false information.

The inquest jury heard evidence of police actions on the day. Police smashed their way into the family home using a sledgehammer and shot Cherry in front of her children in her bedroom. 

Her son Lee was among four other children who witnessed the shooting. He told the inquest, “I opened my eyes, saw a police officer holding a gun in his hand. 

“My mother was on the floor and the officer was pointing the gun at her neck.”

A statement made by Cherry in the aftermath of the shooting was also read out. 


It read, “Immediately after he shot me he said ‘Where is Michael Groce?’ I was lying on the floor on my right hand side.

“A police officer was still pointing a gun at me. I said ‘I can’t breathe’. I remember that I started choking. I was crying out ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t feel my legs, I’m going to die’.

“Lee was still shouting about me and I heard a police officer say to him ‘shut up’.”

Police said Cherry’s son Michael was wanted in connection with armed robbery, but he was never charged.

The shooting triggered Brixton riots in 1985. 

Inspector Douglas Lovelock, the firearms officer who shot Cherry, stood trial in 1987 and was acquitted on all charges.

The Groce family has fought for 29 years to get an official record that acknowledges the shooting was not an accident. Relatives also had to fight to get legal aid for the inquest to even go ahead.

The jury found that the shooting was caused, or contributed to, by a string of serious police failures in both the planning and execution of the armed operation. 

Met officers put life at risk and the jury found that the raid should have been aborted.


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