Family of murdered Asian youth `ignored'

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THE MOTHER of an Asian student found dead in the river Thames described yesterday how she was told by the police to stop wasting their time.

Sukhdev Reel was convinced her "considerate and intelligent" son Lakhvinder "Ricky" Reel was in danger when he failed to return home after a night out. Her fears were compounded when she learned the 20-year-old Brunel University student and his friends had been attacked by white youths immediately before his disappearance on 14 October 1997.

Yet the was passed "like a parcel" between officers, castigated for wasting police time and teased by one officer who surmised the young man may have gone off with a "girlfriend or boyfriend".

A week later Mr Reel's body was pulled from the river.

Yesterday Mrs Reel weptsoftly as she gave evidence at the inquest into her son's death before Dr John Burton at West London Coroners' Court.

Mrs Reel and her husband, Balwant, told how their son had gone out with three friends. When he failed to return home by 1am Mrs Reel telephonedevery hospital and police station in the area. At 8am, she was told an officer from her local station at West Drayton would be straight round. He had failed to arrive an hour later, so she telephoned the station again.

"The woman who answered started shouting at me that I was wasting police time because an officer had come to the house and I had refused to open it," Mrs Reel told the inquest.

The policeman - who arrived later, having earlier gone to a wrong address - said that he could not start a missing persons search for 24 hours because Mr Reel was over 18. A telephone call from Mr Reel's friends - who said they had lost the young man when they had fled an attack by racist youths - failed to change his mind.

"By that time I was pleading with him that Ricky was in danger," Mrs Reel said.

One of the three friends, named as "Dave", told the inquest the group had been drinking in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, and decided to attend a nearby dance festival. As they passed a bus stop two white youths yelled "Oi, Paki" and hit and punched two of them. The friends scattered and met again later. They could not find Mr Reel.

For the next week, the Reel family searched the area for 16 hours a day, handing out photographs, checking CCTV footage, trawling the parks and derelict buildings. "We never saw any police searching," Mrs Reel said. "We were pushed around between two police stations; nobody wanted to know."

On 21 October, as Mr and Mrs Reel prepared to make a media appeal at the headquarters of the race campaigner the Southall Monitoring Group, the call came in that the body of their son had been found. Mrs Reel returned home to discover her three other children, including one aged 11, had already been told the news by police.

Detective Superintendent Bob Moffat informed Mrs Reel that her son's death had been accidental even before the post mortem was carried out. He claimed the young man, whose zipper was undone when he was pulled from the river, had fallen in while trying to urinate. But, Mrs Reed said, he had had a phobia of open water.

The inquest continues.

The mother of a black man who collapsed and died after being detained by eight police officers has described the investigation into his death as "woefully inadequate, not impartial and poorly supervised".

Sheila Sylvester was speaking out for the first time since the death of Roger Sylvester, 30, in January. Mr Sylvester, who was held under the Mental Health Act, was taken naked in a police van to hospital, where he died. The investigation into his death has been completed, the Police Complaints Authority said yesterday.