PC Keith Blakelock's unit 'attacked with flamethrower'

PC Keith Blakelock PC Keith Blakelock was stabbed 43 times, the court heard

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PC Keith Blakelock's unit was attacked with a "flame-type thrower" before he was hacked to death by a mob during the Tottenham riots in 1985, a court heard.

The Old Bailey trial of Nicholas Jacobs heard that bricks, bottles and petrol bombs rained down on police officers.

The officers were trying to protect firefighters when they were attacked.

PC Alan Tappy said he became aware of a "bundle on the grass" whom the mob were "stabbing and clubbing". Mr Jacobs denies murder.

Start Quote

It was like trying to do cardiac compression on a pillow, there was no bone structure there”

End Quote Trevor Stratford Firefighter

PC Tappy's comments, made two days after the riots, were read to jurors by Richard Whittam for the prosecution.

The statement said: "Keith was lying face down and I thought he was dead.

"Pengelly (the unit's sergeant) was at the front of us, kneeling down to his left.

"We grabbed hold of Keith's shoulders and made an attempt to move him but couldn't.

"I remember one side of his neck had a wound, a gaping wound."

PC Tappy realised his colleague was still alive as the unit tried to drag him to safety.

Nicholas Jacobs and the police investigation Nicholas Jacobs was arrested following a renewed police investigation
'Ferocity and determination'

The court also heard a statement from PC Richard Coombes, who was beaten unconscious during the rioting.

The officer, already described to the jury as being "lucky to be alive", received facial injuries, cuts and missing teeth during the onslaught.

Police investigations

  • The first investigation was held after the murder. Three men were found guilty
  • Their convictions were quashed by the Court of Appeal in 1991
  • In 1992-93, a second investigation was launched, but police struggled to get witness accounts because people did not want to make themselves liable to prosecution
  • The police and CPS decided to pursue those they believed had weapons as suspects and regard unarmed attackers who punched and kicked as witnesses
  • The case was reopened in 2000 following a review of unsolved murders

"My feeling during this riot was that those doing the rioting attacked us with such ferocity and determination that I believe they wanted to do us serious harm," he said in a statement also given days after the riots.

"It made me fear for my life."

In the mayhem, PC Coombes said he lost his truncheon, shield and helmet.

'Charged around'

The riots, on the night of 6 October 1985, saw officers attacked by a mob of about 150 people on the Broadwater Farm estate.

Giving evidence, a firefighter described the noise made by the rioters as "equivalent to someone scoring a goal at a football match".

Assistant divisional officer Trevor Stratford said he was assisted by PC Blakelock as they tried to make their escape, which was blocked by protesters.

He said one officer screamed for the firefighters to "get the hell out of there" as between 50 and 80 rioters "charged around".

Struck several times, Mr Stratford said he wanted to go to help PC Blakelock once he saw he had fallen to the ground.

However, the officer was "enveloped" by a group of eight or nine rioters.

He also saw that PC Coombes and one other officer were under attack so he ordered his team to take PC Coombes to hospital in a fire engine with blue lights flashing.

Cars left overturned and burned-out in the street after rioting on the Broadwater Farm housing estate About 500 police battled with rampaging youths who threw bricks and bottles from walkways in the estate

Mr Stratford then saw 20 to 25 people had "focused on" PC Blakelock, stabbing and kicking him, he told the court.

"They were pushing each other out of the way to get into the centre of the group," he said.

Asked if he could remember any weapons being used, the witness said he saw "what appeared to be something like a sword".

Mr Stratford said he stood by a further statement he made in 2007 where he said he saw "a baseball bat, a sword and scythe-like instrument".

When defence barrister Courtenay Griffiths QC asked why it had taken him until 2007 to remember the scythe, Mr Stratford said it was "an omission on my part".

With some difficulty, Mr Stratford and another police officer managed to drag the wounded officer away, he said.

He tried to give him first aid, but said "it was like trying to do cardiac compression on a pillow; there was no bone structure there and so I shouted for an ambulance".

Grass verge where PC Blakelock was attacked PC Blakelock was attacked on a grass verge on the Broadwater Farm Estate

A written statement from fire station commander Graham Holloway, who attended the estate to deal with a fire at a supermarket inside one of the blocks, was also read in court.

Mr Holloway said that when he arrived around 25 youths shouted from the first floor: "Come on firemen, if we get our hands on you we will get you."

After coming under attack Mr Holloway ran outside and saw "about 10 machetes" being thrust towards a man who had fallen to the ground.

"I am convinced that this was a planned manoeuvre," he said in the statement.

"There was no sign of rioters when we went up to the fire other than those on the first floor level."

The trial continues.

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