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How did Christopher Alder die?

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Issue 1704

Family fight for justice

How did Christopher Alder die?

“THE QUESTION we have to answer is how a man in his mid-thirties, who seemed to be fit and well, goes to a nightclub and meets his death.” So said coroner Geoffrey Saul on Monday, opening the inquest into the death in police custody of black ex-soldier Christopher Alder in Hull in April 1998. The inquest, which is expected to last four weeks and will call over 100 witnesses, comes on the back of a massive campaign for justice launched by Christopher’s sister Janet.

Janet told supporters outside the Hull court, “It is now 27 months since the death of my brother Christopher. The day has finally come for the family and the campaign to receive the justice we deserve”. The inquest jury were told of the events leading up to Christopher’s death. They heard how on 31 March 1998 Christopher was involved in an altercation in, and then outside, a Hull nightclub.

Christopher was punched and hit his head on the ground, and an ambulance was called. He was taken to Hull Royal Infirmary where he was said to be “troublesome”. A doctor was not allowed to X ray Christopher’s skull. The doctor did not press the matter because he didn’t think Christopher’s head injury was serious. Two police officers escorted Christopher from the hospital and then arrested him.

The police say he was put in a police van, handcuffed and driven to Hull’s Queen’s Garden police station. The police say when they opened the van door Christopher didn’t respond. He was dragged or carried out of the van and laid on the floor of the custody suite where he died.

A pathologist gave a verdict that Christopher’s was an “undetermined death”. Five officers from Humberside Police have been suspended following the incident and have been charged with misconduct. Janet Alder made a statement to the inquest. She told how “a police officer came to my house at 11.30 at night on his own. He said. ‘Your brother’s died in police custody.’

“I was in total shock. I contacted Hull police. They said, ‘Your brother had a fight, he was injured, taken to hospital and subsequently died of his injuries.’ I went to Hull police station. I met a Detective Davidson. I was not happy with his treatment of me-chewing gum, his hands behind his back. In Hull I was told my brother was taken into custody and that he was sat next to a police officer and he collapsed. Then two or three weeks later I was told he came out of the van unconscious. I spoke to many officers. They all gave me different versions.”

The inquest continues.

  • Messages of support to: Justice for Christopher Alder Campaign, c/o The Red Triangle Cafe, St James Street, Burnley, Lancs.

Police target

DELROY Lindo has been arrested by the Tottenham police yet again-this time for “sucking his teeth” at a policeman. Delroy has been arrested on countless occasions over the past four years. He has been charged with 18 offences, and cleared of every charge. His family has been rehoused by Haringey council in a bid to halt the police targeting him.

Delroy strongly suspects that he is being harassed because of his friendship with Winston Silcott. The last case against Delroy collapsed in May. He had been arrested and charged while defending his teenage son against an attacker. Delroy told Socialist Worker about the latest incident:

“I was arrested at 4pm on Sunday and held for five hours at Tottenham police station. I was released and given bail, and told to come back on 4 August. I had seen an officer taking a number plate off a car and stopped to observe him. They didn’t like it and arrested me for ‘sucking my teeth’ at them and resisting arrest. They only released me after Lee Jasper [advisor to Ken Livingstone] phoned Scotland Yard and the superintendent at the police station.”

Hundreds march for McGowans

Standing up to racism

Sam Ashman reports from Hull

FIVE HUNDRED people, mostly local, marched through the Shropshire town of Telford last Saturday to mark the first anniversary of the death of Errol McGowan.

Errol was found hanged last year after receiving death threats from racists and Nazis. His nephew Jason was then found hanged on New Years’ Day. West Mercia Police, having contemptuously swept the suspicious deaths under the carpet, have had to reopen the cases and treat them as murder.

As Ken Livingstone, in a message read out to the demonstration, said, “It is unacceptable in our supposedly civilised society that black people should receive unfavourable treatment because of the colour of their skin. “Errol and Jason have encountered racism twice-first at the hands of racist thugs and secondly at the hands of West Mercia Police.”

Despite this condemnation a West Mercia Police officer had the nerve to address the demonstration, calling for more black people to join the police! The speech, needless to say, didn’t go down too well with protesters. Cliff McGowan, Errol’s brother, told Socialist Worker, “He seemed to take the rally as a joking matter.”

Steve, a family friend of the McGowans, said, “There is too much racism. The family don’t feel there is any justice. I’ve got a black nephew. I’ve seen the way he has been treated by the police-it’s not nice.”

An impressive line up of speakers addressed the marchers. These included Victor Sylvester, the cousin of Roger who died in police custody in north London, Lee Jasper of the National Assembly Against Racism, Carole Jenkins from UNISON, Peter Herbert from the Society of Black Lawyers, Weyman Bennett from the SWP and Julie Waterson from the Anti Nazi League.

Julie told the rally, “We have a police force that sees black people, anti-racists and anti-fascists as the problem, not racism.” Those attending a memorial service for Errol later on included Doreen Lawrence, mother of Stephen.

Cliff McGowan told Socialist Worker that the police have reconstructed events surrounding his nephew Jason’s death: “They did different scenarios of what may have happened, using a dummy. It showed that Jason could not have hanged himself.”

Cliff also said that the police had received an anonymous letter naming Errol’s killers. “But the police still seem no further forward,” Cliff commented.

  • The Justice for Errol and Jason McGowan campaign is in urgent need of funds. Rush donations to PO Box 430, Tweedale, Telford, Shropshire TF4 3WZ.

Justice for Harry Stanley

Killed by the police

Thursday 13 July, 6.30pm Hackney Town Hall, Hackney, east London

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