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Nicky Jacobs trial: ‘It was a matter of any black man will do’ says Winston Silcott

This article is over 7 years, 9 months old
Nicky Jacobs was found not guilty of the murder of PC Keith Blakelock last week. One of the Tottenham Three, Winston Silcott spoke to Annette Mackin about the system’s racism
Issue 2399
Tottenham Rights organised protests outside the court to support Nicky
Tottenham Rights organised protests outside the court to support Nicky (Pic: Guy Smallman)

It took just four hours last week for a jury to find Nicky Jacobs not guilty of the murder of PC Keith Blakelock.

Blakelock was killed during the riot in Broadwater Farm, Tottenham in 1985 which was sparked by the death of Cynthia Jarrett after police searched her home (see bottom right).

It is a scandal that the case against Nicky got as far as it did. 

Evidence was presented by witnesses who lied throughout, and who had received payments from police.

Winston Silcott was one of the Tottenham Three who were wrongly jailed in 1987 for the murder of Blakelock. 

Their convictions were quashed in 1991 after forensics revealed evidence had been fabricated.

Winston told Socialist Worker, “There was no evidence against Nicky, it was just a matter of any black man will do.

“It is a matter of targeting people from Tottenham, especially Broadwater Farm, to make an example out of them.”

Winston Silcott

Winston Silcott (Pic: Guy Smallman)

“It’s a sorry state of affairs in the criminal justice system.”

The prosecution case against Nicky relied on the testimony of three witnesses known by the pseudonyms of Rhodes Levin, John Brown and Q.

Levin and Brown had been paid £2,500 and £5,000 respectively for providing evidence against Nicky and others during a reinvestigation into Blakelock’s murder in the 1990s.

On top of the payments, police paid for Levin to catch a flight back from holiday. The MOT on Brown’s car had been paid by cops, as had his rent arrears and phone bills.

And Brown told police in 1993, “It’s very hard for me because…I can’t tell the difference between them. To me a black man is a black man.”

Brown and Levin admitted to “punching and kicking” Blakelock but were given immunity from prosecution.


Both Brown and Levin also admitted to repeatedly lying to the police. 

Levin even said that he had originally lied and named Winston as the person who had lead the attack, until he was acquitted in 1991.

“I know the police could see the inconsistencies, but they were so desperate to get a conviction.” Winston said.

Brown even put the location of Blakelock’s murder at the wrong end of Broadwater Farm. Q, who is Brown’s cousin, also got the location wrong.

On top of all this Levin, Brown and Q each described Nicky as having a different weapon.

Levin said he had a “six-inch lock blade”, Brown said he had a “two-foot scythe,” and Q a “machete or sharpened piece of scaffold”. 

The riot broke out after police blocked people from leaving Broadwater Farm to go to protest outside Tottenham Police Station.

They shouted racist abuse at anyone trying to leave.

Winston attended the trial, which began in the same courtroom where he was wrongly convicted 27 years ago. 

Winston said, “I wasn’t there on the night, and I’m hearing new things all the time. 

“In the court we heard the police radios from the night. They were referring to people as ‘the enemy’. You get enemies in wars.

“So to the police, they were at war with the people on Broadwater Farm.” 

How police caused the Broadwater Farm riot

Cops surrounded Broadwater Farm on the night of 6 October 1985

Cops surrounded Broadwater Farm on the night of 6 October 1985 (Pic: John Sturrock)

The Broadwater Farm riot was sparked by the death of Cynthia Jarrett after police searched her home.

The search was made after cops stopped the car of her son Floyd Jarrett on 5 October 1985.

Floyd was a key member of the Broadwater Farm Youth Association along with Winston Silcott. 

His car’s tax disc was five weeks out of date. One cop filled out a form requiring Floyd to report to a police station. It should have ended there. But PC Chris Casey decided to search the Police National Computer, even though he had no reason to. 

Casey said the tax disc and the number plates did not match, but that the car was not stolen. 

Despite this, Casey arrested Floyd on suspicion of car theft.

Here detective constable Michael Randall intervened. Complaints had already been made against Randall regarding his conduct searching the homes of black people. 

Despite not being on duty, he searched the Jarrett home. 

Cops took Floyd’s keys without his knowledge to enter the family home. 

As they went from room to room, Cynthia’s daughter Patricia said she saw Randall push Cynthia who fell, breaking a small table. 

She became seriously unwell and lay dying while police continued the search. To this day Randall or the other officers  have never faced charges. 

Media trot out old myths and smears

Over the years most of the media have directed vile abuse at Winston Silcott.

“They really railroaded me back in the day,” he told Socialist Worker.

“The didn’t do it to Nicky in the same way because today they wouldn’t have got away with it as much.”

However the myth that an attempt was made to decapitate PC Keith Blakelock has resurfaced in much of the mainstream media. 

The notion that his attackers tried to cut off his head to put it on a pole first came from the forced confession of 13 year old Jason Hill.

He was arrested for the killing in October 1985, less than a week after the riot on Broadwater Farm. 

Hill was refused a solicitor, and after police kept pushing the name Winston Silcott to him he made up a story of how Winston had ordered him to cut Blakelock. 

During his trial, Hill went further he said that he saw people try and decapitate Blakelock with a machete. 

Despite autopsy records showing that Blakelock didn’t have such a wound, the press took up this baseless claim. 

Throughout the trial it became clear Hill was an unreliable witness and the judge ruled that any evidence he had given should be ruled as inadmissible. 

Yet as Winston said, “Why are the media still going with what has been proven to be fantasy?”

Groce family wins legal aid

Just days before the Broadwater Farm riot, people rose up against police repression in Brixton, south London.

This was in response to the police shooting of Dorothy “Cherry” Groce. 

Cherry was a black mother who was shot and paralysed by armed police who raided her home looking for her son.

She died in 2011 after having spent 26 years in a wheelchair. An inquest into her death is due to begin in June this year.

Documents reveal that pathologists have concluded that there was a causal link between the shooting and her eventual death.

Cherry’s family were granted legal aid funding last week after a petition demanding they received it got 130,000 signatures.

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