Musician killed by attackers, says jury

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The Independent Online
A BLACK musician who was found badly burnt in a London street was unlawfully killed, an inquest jury decided yesterday. Michael Menson, 30, was found wandering almost naked and still alight on the North Circular Road in the early hours of 28 January last year.

The verdict, which coincides with the reopening of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, is likely to compound concerns over the way police respond to the suspicious deaths of black people. Officers initially believed that Mr Menson had set himself alight, and thus did not seal off the scene of the crime for scientific evidence to be collected until 12 hours later. His family later complained that officers failed to act on information provided by Mr Menson before he died, that he had been followed by four white men from a bus.

Scotland Yard said yesterday that four junior officers had had "words of advice and constructive discussions with senior officers" because of the case. Three middle-ranking officers retired before a disciplinary investigation of their handling of the inquiry could be concluded.

Yesterday's inquest at Hornsey Coroner's Court in north London did not concern itself with the police investigation. The coroner, Dr William Dolman, said the police should not be blamed for failing to find the killers. "From what we have heard, it is clear that theirs has been a difficult task against appalling odds, hampered by the absence of any witnesses," he said. "It is no blame on the police that there have been no answers so far." On one occasion Dr Dolman prevented Terry Munyard, representing the family, from pressing a policewoman over why she failed to cordon off the scene.

The coroner expressed his sympathies to the Menson family. "What happened that night was an appalling and horrible event. It is no surprise to me that you have been angry and deeply troubled by the circumstances of his death."

The jury returned a majority verdict of nine to one that Mr Menson, who had five hit singles with the group Double Trouble, was unlawfully killed.

In a statement issued after the verdict, Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Townsend of the Metropolitan Police said: "Michael Menson's death was a tragedy. The Met Police continues its investigation to try and discover the circumstances surrounding [Mr Menson's] unlawful killing."

Mr Townsend wrote in a letter to solicitors acting for Mr Menson's family on 25 August, apologising for the failings of some of his officers: "I accept that police action at the scene and for the first 12 hours was not as thorough as I would have wished."