Brixton riots: Met police chief ‘sorry’ for shooting of innocent woman that sparked unrest in 1985

Cherry Groce was left paralysed from the waist down for 26 years

crime correspondent

The head of Scotland Yard has publicly apologised to the family of an innocent woman shot by police during a botched operation that sparked the 1985 Brixton riots.

An inquest jury identified eight failures in the raid on the home of Cherry Groce in Brixton, south London, that left her paralysed from the waist down for 26 years until she died in 2011 from kidney failure as a direct result of her injuries. She was 63.

The shooting set off two days of looting and riots in Brixton, which was followed by further major disturbances on the Broadwater Farm Estate in Tottenham, north London, after a woman died during a separate police operation.

“Today, I apologise unreservedly for our failings. I also apologise for the inexcusable fact that it has taken until now for the Met to make this public apology,” said Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe. “Sadly, this means that the person who most deserved to hear the apology is no longer here.

Lee Lawrence, son of Dorothy 'Cherry' Groce, who was paralysed from the waist down after being shot during a police raid on her home in 1985 (Teri Pengilley/The Independent) Lee Lawrence, son of Dorothy 'Cherry' Groce, who was paralysed from the waist down after being shot during a police raid on her home in 1985 (Teri Pengilley/The Independent)
“However, Cherry’s children, her friends and others are here and they too deserve an apology.”

Police had been searching for Ms Groce’s son Michael, who was wanted over firearms offences, but was not at the house at the time. An internal police report into the shooting, which was only released to the family last year, revealed a string of failures in the planning and execution of the raid and said it should never have gone ahead owing to the total “lack of information” about the house where Ms Groce was living with four of her children, three of them aged under 14.

Inspector Douglas Lovelock, who fired the shot that left Ms Groce, a mother of eight, in hospital for a year, told the jury that he had been extremely nervous on the day of the raid and said he should not have gone on the operation. The jury found police had failed to carry out checks of who lived at the property. They failed to carry out proper surveillance of the property and failed to call off the operation when it was shown to be flawed.

Two days of riots followed Cherry Groce’s shooting Two days of riots followed Cherry Groce’s shooting (Alamy)

In a statement, the family said: “After 29 years it is now a matter of public record that the shooting of our mother and grandmother was not an accident. Instead the truth is that Cherry Groce was shot as a result of a series of astonishing failures by officers to follow procedures designed to protect innocent members of the public.”

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