Scotland Yard will be investigated after officers sent to protect mourners at the funeral of a teenager with suspected gang links failed to prevent the shooting of one of his friends when he left the cemetery.
Officers went to a church service and the wake for Joel Morgan, 17, in Brixton, south London, on Thursday but did not attend the burial ceremony in a neighbouring borough despite warnings from the dead teenager’s mother of the potential for violence.
Police said yesterday that the suspected killer and his accomplice left the cemetery among at least 50 mourners before shooting Azezur Khan, 21, several times at close range in Forest Hill Road, East Dulwich, south London. A 17-year-old boy was shot in the ankle during the attack.
Joel Morgan’s mother, Carlene Brooks, said that she had asked police to be present at the funeral for her son, who died in a car crash last month.
Ms Brooks said she heard several shots as her son’s coffin was being lowered into the ground. “To hear another boy has died is devastating,” she said. “I can’t believe another family now has to go through what I’m going through.”
Scotland Yard referred the matter to its internal standards body, which decided to refer the case to the Independent Police Complaints Commission for further scrutiny. The investigation will try to uncover whether senior officers made the decision that officers should not covertly attend the burial, or if officers had failed to follow the cortege to the cemetery. “That will form part of the investigation. It’s unclear what was decided,” said a Scotland Yard spokesman.
Andrew Jones, 30, who lived a couple of doors from the shooting, saw the cortege as it passed on the way to Camberwell Old Cemetery. “I was on the phone when it went past and I mentioned to my friend that it was quite upsetting seeing the tributes, the first saying ‘ grandson’, and then ‘son’.
“I went upstairs to my third floor flat when I later heard what I thought was fireworks. But it was six shots in very quick succession. When I came downstairs police were all over the place. The rumour was that undercover officers were monitoring it because the response was so fast.”
Mourners carrying flowers who had just left the burial service watched as paramedics tried to revive Mr Khan outside a lettings agency, witnesses said. One bullet drilled through the shop’s front window and into a wall above a desk. Police confirmed that staff were working there at the time.
Senior officers said a feud between gangs was being considered as a motive for the attack but added that there was no intelligence to suggest that Mr Khan – a friend of Mr Morgan - was himself involved in gang violence. Two men and two 17-year-old girls were arrested but later released on bail after Mr Khan’s killing.
Police intelligence suggested Mr Morgan “may have had some contact with gang members”, said Det Supt Gordon Allison, of Operation Trident, which investigates gun-related murders in the black community.
Scotland Yard sent extra police to south London yesterday in case of reprisal attacks following the shooting. Previous attacks linked to feuds between gangs have been followed by tit-for-tat killings.
Commander David Zinzan, responsible for south-east London policing, said the extra officers had been brought in following the shooting to “make it clear to anyone even considering being involved in violence that it will not be tolerated”.
He added: "Our priority is to bring to justice those responsible for this shooting and prevent further incidents from occurring over the coming days."
The attack came in the week the Home Office announced a crackdown on gangs, prompted by the summer riots - although research has countered ministerial claims that gangs were behind much of that violence.