Menson's family praised by judge for `tenacity'

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The Independent Online
THE JUDGE in the Michael Menson murder trial praised the dead man's relatives for their "determination and tenacity" as he sentenced the musician's killers yesterday.

Mr Menson, 30 was set on fire by three thugs as a racist "joke". He died 16 days later, on 13 February 1997. Yesterday Mr Justice Gage made a special point of highlighting his family's three-year battle to bring the killers to justice, after police initially dismissed the death as a possible suicide.

At the Old Bailey, Mario Pereira, 26, was sentenced to life for murder on top of his conviction for perverting the course of justice.

After acknowledging that Charalambous "Harry" Constantinou, 27, had played a lesser part in the crime, Mr Justice Gage sentenced him to a total of 12 years - 10 for manslaughter and two concurrent sentences of 15 months and two years for two charges of perverting the course of justice, one of which he admitted, to run consecutively with the longer sentence.

Husseyin Abdullah, 50, was given a 21-month sentence after being convicted of perverting the course of justice for his part in helping Pereira and Constantinou cover up the killing. A fourth man, Ozguy Cevat, 22, who fled to northern Cyprus after the attack on Mr Menson, was convicted there of manslaughter and sentenced to 14 years last month.

In what could be interpreted as a veiled criticism of the Metropolitan Police, Mr Justice Gage said: "It is, of course, not for me to comment on the conduct of the police investigation. I understand that there is an ongoing investigation. However I do want to say something about the Menson family.

"Others have written about the determination and tenacity of Michael Menson's family to see those responsible for his death are brought to justice. I would like to add my admiration for their efforts. Having observed them in what must have been a considerable ordeal, I have been very impressed by the quiet and dignified way in which they have conducted themselves during this trial."

For the first time yesterday the strain on Mr Menson's family began to show. As they filed out of court his older sister, Dr Essie Menson, broke down in tears.

Sentencing Pereira, Mr Justice Gage said: "This was a wicked and unprovoked attack on a man rendered wholly defenceless by his mental state. Michael Menson was a much-loved and talented man. All three of you in various wayssought to hinder and obstruct the inquiry into this terrible crime. But for the determination and tenacity of Mr Menson's close-knit, devoted family you might have succeeded."

As Pereira stood in the dock with his hands in his pockets, the judge added that he could not be sure that the crime was racially motivated, but he was convinced that Pereira had made racist comments.

"During the course of this trial I have heard no evidence or seen any sign of remorse from you for what you have done," he added.

Mr Menson, a successful musician whose band Rebel MC and Double Trouble had two top twenty hits, had suffered a breakdown and severe mental health problems after bankruptcy and the loss of his recording studio. On 28 January 1997 he was wandering the streets of Edmonton whenPereira, Cevat and Constantinou, who all lived in the area, set light to his clothing.

Police initially dismissed the fatal burns as self-inflicted. It was not until an inquest jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing earlier this year that Scotland Yard's race and violent crime taskforce took over the case. Its vigorous investigation soon bore fruit and the men were arrested in March of this year. A Police Complaints Authority investigation is now looking at the original Metropolitan Police inquiry into Mr Menson's death.

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