Police urged to release fatal racist attack report

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THE POLICE Complaints Authority has urged the Metropolitan Police to release the contents of what is expected to be a highly critical report on their handling of the death of an Asian student.

Lakhvinder "Ricky" Reel, 20, was found drowned in the Thames last October after a racist attack. Police concluded that he fell in the river while drunk. But his family is convinced that he was murdered.

An eight-month review of the police investigation, carried out by Surrey Constabulary on behalf of the PCA, will be completed by the end of this month.

In a rare move, Peter Moorhouse, chairman of the authority, has written to Scotland Yard asking for statements and evidence to be made available to Mr Reel's family before his inquest opens in the autumn.

PCA reports are confidential, and can only be disclosed with the agreement of the police force under investigation. This has only happened on one occasion - the public inquiry into the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence, where the Met permitted the authority's report to be given to all parties. In that case the Met's openness was a one-off. A spokesman said that it was not normal practice to release documents to complainants, and he accused the PCA of "moving the goalposts".

Mr Reel, who was studying computing and management at Brunel University, disappeared during an evening out with three Asian friends in Kingston- upon-Thames, west London.

After being racially abused and attacked by two white youths in Kingston town centre, the men fled in different directions. Mr Reel's body was found in the Thames a week later.

Police concluded that he toppled into the river while urinating. But his family says he had a phobia about open water and alleges detectives ignored the significance of the racist incident. Mr Reel's mother, Sukhdev, who plans to make a submission to the second part of the Lawrence inquiry, has asked to be given access to the PCA documents as well as the Met's files on the case.

"I want justice for my son," she said yesterday. "I can't come to terms with his death until I've proved to myself and to my other children that it wasn't an accident. My family needs to know why mistakes were made and what has been done about them."

Complainants usually receive a brief letter informing them of the outcome of a PCA inquiry. In this case, a copy of the report will go to the West London coroner, Dr John Burton, as well as to the Met. The PCA believes the Reel family should be given relevant material to ensure a "level playing-field" at the inquest.