No-one is in jail over 30 years on from this terrible crime
On 6 October 1985, PC Keith Blakelock, 40, was assigned to a Metropolitan Police unit called to a riot at the Broadwater Farm housing estate in Tottenham North London. The disturbance was sparked after police burst into the home of resident Cynthia Jarrett, looking for stolen goods. They found nothing, but Mrs Jarrett, 49, collapsed from a heart attack.
Anger at police from London’s black community was already at boiling point. Weeks before there had been riots in Brixton over the accidental police shooting an innocent black woman, Cherry Groce. Now the anger had spread north to Tottenham and exploded into violence.
Fires had been set on the Broadwater Farm estate and petrol bombs and bottles were thrown at firefighters who came to tame the blaze. Angry residents had armed themselves with baseball bats, knives and bricks.
PC Blakelock – a husband and father of three boys – was one of 500 police, with riot shields and helmets, called to the estate. His unit was tasked with protecting the firefighters. In the tussle with the rioting mob, PC Blakelock lost his footing and fell.
On the ground, he was surrounded by up to 50 rioters who stabbed him repeatedly and attempted to decapitate him, using knives and a machete. Chants of ‘kill the pig’ were heard and a knife was left embedded in PC Blakelock’s neck. He had 42 stab wounds and died before he reached hospital. His colleague PC Richard Coombes was also attacked but survived.
In 1987, three men were convicted of PC Blakelock’s murder and sentenced to life but the convictions were quashed by the Court of Appeal four years later. One later collected £50,000 compensation from the Metropolitan Police for wrongful conviction. In 2014 a fourth man stood trial for PC Blakelock’s murder but was acquitted.
PC Keith Blakelock was posthumously awarded the Queens Gallantry Medal and a memorial to him is Muswell Hill, where he’d been a bobby on the beat.
More than 30 years since his brutal murder, the case remains open.