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Wayne Kelly campaign: ‘the state doesn’t care how Wayne died’

This article is over 15 years, 7 months old
Family and friends of Wayne Kelly, who died following a fight outside a London pub last year, spoke to Yuri Prasad about their campaign for justice
Issue 2005
Demanding answers: (left to right) John and Kerstie Romeril, Wayne’s uncle Joe Burke and Wayne’s parents Tina and Martin Kelly (Pic: Socialist Worker)
Demanding answers: (left to right) John and Kerstie Romeril, Wayne’s uncle Joe Burke and Wayne’s parents Tina and Martin Kelly (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Wayne Kelly was a popular 21 year old from Neasden, north west London, known as Smiley to his friends. He died in April 2005, following a fight with bouncers at a local pub.

Three men were arrested on suspicion of his murder. But in March this year the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced that there was insufficient evidence to press charges.

Kerstie Romeril was Wayne’s friend. Like many people from the estate where he lived, she believes that the failure to prosecute anyone for Wayne’s death is a result of who he was, and where he was from.

“Because Smiley was a young person, and because he was from the Press Road estate – a ‘lower class’ area – they don’t care about how he died,” she said. “If he’d been from a middle class area, his killers would already be in prison.”

On the night that Wayne died he was celebrating with friends at The Harp pub in nearby West Hendon following a £50 win on the Grand National.

During the course of the evening one of Wayne’s friends was thrown out of the pub. When Wayne went to check up on his friend he was involved in a confrontation with bouncers.

Martin Kelly, Wayne’s father, said, “That evening Wayne sustained 21 injuries, including two serious wounds to his head, one at the front, another at the back. Many people were potential witnesses to the assault and there is some CCTV footage.

“Nevertheless, the CPS have decided that there is insufficient evidence to mount a successful prosecution.”


Tina, Wayne’s mother, said, “For the first six months I had faith that the police would get all the evidence necessary. But after that, I started to think something was going wrong.

“Too many things about the investigation weren’t right. For example, we found out that one of the bouncers, who was on police bail, had skipped the country – and to this day no one knows where he is.”

A police’s assessment of the CCTV footage concluded that it showed little that would help the Kelly’s case.

Unsatisfied, Martin decided to view the tapes himself, and was given an edited version of them. He spotted a short section that showed his son being kicked in the head – something that the police had completely missed.

Wayne’s family began an investigation of their own. A medical solicitor employed by the family found that the injury to the front of Wayne’s head, which may well have killed him, could have been sustained by either a kick from someone wearing trainers, or by Wayne’s head hitting some reinforced glass.

The family discovered that the pub had to replace a damaged window that weekend. But the CPS was not interested in this evidence.

“The day after Wayne was killed, the security company that employed the bouncers sent people round to people who had made statements,” said Martin. “Following their visit, two witnesses withdrew their statements. One of these witnesses could have been crucial to the case.”

The community has reacted with shock and anger to the decision by the CPS. Friend and neighbour John Romeril, Kerstie’s father, thinks that there is a connection between how the young people on the Press Road estate are treated by the police and the failure to bring a case for Wayne’s murder.


“The police come to this estate mob handed and harass the kids,” he said. “If there’s a neighbourhood dispute, you get 13 police vehicles turning up here. If this was happening to middle class families five miles up the road in Hampstead things would be very different.”

On 3 June, family and neighbours organised a protest march of over 300 people to demand justice for Wayne.

That so many turned out was no surprise to John. “This is a tight knit community,” he said. “The week after Wayne was killed we had over 1,000 young people here to pay their respects – Wayne was known as Smiley because everybody loved him.”

The Press Road estate is constantly derided by local papers as “out of control”, an area where neighbours are “at war”. As a result it has been a testing ground for the use of Asbos (anti-social behaviour orders).

But the reaction to the killing of Wayne Kelly shows another side of the Press Road estate – a community united and determined to see justice done.


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