Met accused of racism in Menson case

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The Independent Online
THE FAMILY of a black musician who was turned into a fireball as a racist "joke" launched a scathing attack on police as his killers were convicted yesterday.

Three years after Michael Menson's death - initially dismissed as suicide by Scotland Yard - a jury at the Old Bailey found his killers guilty. A third man was convicted of the killing a month ago. Mario Pereira, 26, was found guilty of murder while Charalambous Constantinou, 27, was cleared of murder but found guilty of mans-laughter. The third man, Ozguy Cevat, 22, who fled to the Turkish republic of Northern Cyprus, was convicted in that country of manslaughter and sentenced to 14 years.

Pereira and Constantinou, with Husseyin Abdullah, 50, all from Edmonton, north London, were also convicted of perverting the course of justice by obstructing the police inquiry. They will be sentenced today.

Mr Menson, 30, who suffered from mental illness, was set on fire in January 1997 and died 16 days later. On his deathbed he insisted to his family that he had been attacked and they pushed police to take the matter seriously.

The case, which bears disturbing similarities to the murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993, has proved yet another serious embarrassment for the Metropolitan Police. It was not until an inquest jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing earlier this year that Scotland Yard's race and violent crimes taskforce took over the case. Within months, officers gathered enough evidence to arrest the killers in an operation that cost pounds 1.2m.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Kwesi Menson, the dead man's brother, said: "It can't be right that a family like mine are left to battle for three years against insuperable odds and to continue to fight until we are taken seriously."

Earlier, his sister, Essie, said: "We have no doubt that had Michael been white ... the police would have taken what he said more seriously. It was a failure of motivation and will."