A murdered black man, a suspect and a wall of silence

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The Independent Online
A BLACK man is murdered outside a London bar in front of hundreds of witnesses during a fight involving up to 20 people. There are hints that the notorious north London crime family, the Adamses, were in some way involved. Eighteen months on, no one has been convicted or even charged.

The family of the murdered man, Ronald Hinkson, who was 32, are increasingly angry over the way the police have acted. His partner, Tracey Hill, who has not spoken out before, told The Independent: "I do not want to upset the police. But I cannot get enough information to be confident in their investigation."

His sister, Julie Hinkson, agreed: "I do not feel the police have learnt the lessons of the Lawrence affair ... I feel there is now a complete breakdown between the police and us."

Mr Hinkson, a graphic designer, was murdered on a Saturday night after he went out to celebrate a friend's 30th birthday. At the end of the evening, he and three friends went for a drink in BarZaar, a late-night bar in Camden. According to the police, there was an "altercation" between Mr Hinkson and a man in the bar. The man attacked him with a glass and Mr Hinkson was bundled out of the exit with two friends. A brawl ensued.

One of the friends was knocked unconscious and was taken to hospital. Mr Hinkson was found in the road, fatally injured with 10 stab wounds.

The policeman in charge of the case, Detective Chief Inspector David Brown, says 19 officers "arrived at the scene within three minutes of the emergency call". But the family says that a number of witnesses were able to slip away.

The key suspect fled the scene, disappeared from his home the following day and has not been seen since. Despite his details being placed on the police national computer and with Interpol, he has not been found.

Police will not name the man because they say it would be prejudicial to any prosecution. Nor have the police prosecuted any of the other men involved in the attack, although one of Mr Hinkson's friends was badly hurt. Officers believe that prosecutions on minor charges would endanger any later prosecution of the murder suspect.

But what has caused the family's anger is the lack of information from the police.

Last August, Det Ch Insp Brown met Ms Hinkson, who works as a legal executive. He says he took her into his confidence "on everything about the case except the name of the suspect".

Ms Hinkson and her lawyer say that the police have still not answered a number of key questions. Det Ch Insp Brown says it would have been inappropriate to provide answers.

After further requests from the solicitor, Det Ch Insp Brown said he was consulting the Metropolitan Police lawyers as to whether the family was legally entitled to the information they had requested.

Ms Hinkson's lawyer, Adrian Clarke, of Bindman and Partners, says they have not received a reply. He said: "When no information is forthcoming it can only give rise to suspicion of incompetence."

Det Ch Insp Brown maintains that his investigation has been properly conducted. He says that Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Grieve, the man in overall charge of the Stephen Lawrence investigation and head of the Racial and Violent Crimes Task Force, has looked at the investigation and is happy with the way it has been conducted.

The identity of the suspect is well known locally. He is a white man of Irish descent who grew up in the area. He is said to have worked at the bar in the past. When asked if this was true, Det Ch Insp Brown replied: "I can't speculate on that."

Last September the family held a memorial service on the anniversary of the murder. Several police officers, including Det Ch Insp Brown, attended and an appeal was issued with a pounds 21,000 reward, including pounds 5,000 from the police.

Rumours have also flourished locally that the Adams family, an Islington- based gang, was involved. But Det Ch Insp Brown said: "The fact that the suspect may or may not have been connected with the Adamses has no relevance whatsoever."

The deteriorating relationship between family and police has eroded trust on key questions. Was there a racial element to the attack? "No," said Det Ch Insp Brown. Ms Hinkson said: "We just don't have enough information to be sure."

Tracey Hill said: "I only hear from the police when I approach them. I feel I could go six months without hearing from them. I literally have to drag information out of them."

Det Ch Insp Brown said there had been more than 200 police contacts with the family.