Inquest opens into race-related case bungled by the Metropolitan Police

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The Independent Online
SUKHDEV REEL is looking for answers today. She wants to know how her son's body turned up in the Thames a week after he was last seen fleeing a racist attack. She wants to know how he died.

The inquest into the death of Lakhvinder "Ricky" Reel, 20, a Brunel University student, starts today, two years after his body was pulled out of the river.

Coming after the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, the case has been another embarrassment for the Metropolitan Police.

Initially, investigators dismissed his death as an accident, yet a subsequent Police Complaints Authority inquiry, after an investigation by Surrey Police, discovered "weaknesses and flaws" and found three officers guilty of neglect of duty.

Mr Reel was out with three friends in Kingston upon Thames in the early hours of 14 October 1997 when they were racially abused by two white men and fled in different directions. He was not seen again until his body was found in the river about 500 yards away. Investigating officers concluded he had fallen in. But Mr Reel had a morbid fear of open water and his family insists that he would not have approached the Thames willingly.

Mrs Reel, who has campaigned tirelessly for answers, said yesterday: "I hope the inquest can tell me how my son died and we can achieve justice for him."

Supporters of her campaign, including the poet Benjamin Zephaniah and the Asian Dub Foundation group, will stage a vigil outside Fulham Town Hall this morning before the inquest.

Michael Mansfield QC, the barrister who represented Stephen Lawrence's family during the Macpherson inquiry, will be acting for the Reels.

The Metropolitan Police has relaunched the investigation into Mr Reel's death and the case is being re-examined by its Racial and Violent Crimes task force.

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