Police have been accused of a “systematic cover-up” over the unsolved death of a City high-flier 15 years ago after it emerged that a serving detective was on a night out with a group of people – two of whom were later suspected of attacking the accountant.
Jay Abatan, who worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers, was assaulted outside a Brighton nightclub in 1999, hit his head on the pavement and died in hospital five days later.
In the aftermath, Sussex Police failed to properly resource the homicide investigation, prompting criticism from the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
The family of Mr Abatan, a father-of-two with African heritage, claim detectives immediately erected a “wall of silence” around the death.
Two men, Graham Curtis and Peter Bell, were arrested by within 24 hours of the attack, but manslaughter charges were dropped because of a lack of evidence.
They were instead charged with affray and causing actual bodily harm to Jay Abatan, but were acquitted.
Michael Abatan, the victim’s brother, has engaged in tortuous correspondence with Sussex Police for 15 years in a bid to find answers.
He has recently discovered that a serving Sussex Police officer was present at a birthday party in the nightclub which was also attended by the two people who allegedly attacked Mr Abatan outside the now-defunct Ocean Rooms in January 1999.
He said: “My family can no longer trust Sussex Police. We cannot understand why such significant facts have been kept from us regarding the night my brother was attacked.
“The revelation that a police officer was with the group earlier on the night makes the handling of this case all the more reprehensible. There appears to have been a systematic cover-up.”
A Sussex Police spokesperson said: “All of the points raised in Mr Abatan’s press release have been discussed with Jay’s family on several occasions.
“The last of these was in July 2013, which was also attended by the Crown Prosecution Service and Sir Peter Bottomley MP. At this time it was explained that there were no grounds to reopen an investigation in the absence of further evidence.”
In October 2010, Brighton and Hove’s coroner, Veronica Hamilton-Deeley, recorded a verdict of unlawful killing.
Mr Bell gave evidence saying he had not seen Mr Curtis hit or kick Jay Abatan. Mr Curtis hanged himself at his Brighton home in June 2003.
Mr Abatan said his brother’s case was the only non-white murder that year in Sussex and claims it was “the only one not given adequate homicide resources”. He said: “We were treated like second-class citizens, just as the Lawrence Inquiry was reporting on institutional racism in the police.
“Given the catalogue of flaws we have been subjected to, this merits a full public inquiry into the case.”
A Sussex Police spokesperson said: “There has never been any suggestion by the independent reviews or the coroner of institutional racism. The initial investigation into Mr Abatan’s death has been subject to considerable, well-documented scrutiny.”