Socialist Worker

Jay Abatan's family asks, 'How close were the police to the men who killed him?'

by Annette Mackin
Issue No. 2417

Jay Abatan, who died after a racist attack in 1999

Jay Abatan, who died after a racist attack in 1999

The family of a man who died following a racist attack say police withheld crucial information from the investigation into his killing.

Jay Abatan died fifteen years ago after being attacked by a gang of white men outside the Ocean Rooms club in Brighton.

Two men were charged with manslaughter after the attack, but charges were later dropped. 

They instead faced trial for affray and causing actual bodily harm (ABH) but were acquitted.

However, police have since confirmed that a serving police officer had been with the group in the club before they went on to attack Jay. 

Jay’s brother Michael met senior officers last week to question why there hasn’t been any progress in the case.

“We need justice for Jay,” Michael Abatan told Socialist Worker. “It’s 15 years on and nothing has changed, we need to understand why.”

The attack occurred at a taxi rank on the night of 24 January 1999 after Michael, Jay, and a friend left the Ocean Rooms nightclub. 

As they were getting into a taxi the gang attacked them. Four men attacked Michael as he tried to resuscitate Jay and went on to attack their friend.

Jay was hit twice and suffered severe head injuries from the attack. He was in a coma for five days before he died. 

No one has been convicted of his killing. Two men, Graham Curtis and Peter Bell, were arrested within 24 hours of the attack. 

Manslaughter charges were dropped. 

They faced trial for affray and causing ABH to Michael. The family believe that police links with the attackers have led to a series of cover-ups over the years.

During the ABH trial an officer even acted as a good character witness for Bell.

The investigation was fraught with incompetence from the start.

In 2004 three senior police officers faced a misconduct tribunal.

In 2005 two Sussex police inspectors Andy Young and Martin Sapwell had misconduct charges upheld.

A detective superintendent involved in the investigation was forced to accept five misconduct charges and was fined nine days’ pay.

The police only treated the attack as racist two years after Jay died, following a family campaign.

The coroner at the 2010 inquest into Jay’s death returned the verdict of unlawful killing. 

Police had denied that an officer was part of the group in the Ocean Rooms on the night. But a witness at the inquest contradicted this. 

Jay’s family are now fighting for a full public inquiry into the case.

“It’s been 15 years and we’re still learning new things,” said Michael. “But I think there is still a lot more to come out.

“We need to know—how close were the police to the men that killed Jay?”


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Article information

Tue 19 Aug 2014, 19:36 BST
Issue No. 2417
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