Members of a violent mob that surrounded PC Keith Blakelock during riots in Tottenham 29 years ago were given immunity from murder to become key witnesses against a man accused of stabbing the officer to death, a court heard today.
Nicky Jacobs, 45, went on trial today following a third police investigation into the murder of an officer who was surrounded and nearly decapitated by an “inner circle” of some 15-20 attackers shouting “kill the pig” during the 1985 riots on the Broadwater Farm Estate.
The Old Bailey heard that key prosecution witnesses included those who kicked the fallen officer during the attack and could have faced murder charges had it not for the deal. Some have been paid by the police, been charged with criminal offences and been involved in drug and alcohol abuse, the court heard.
The men – known as “kickers” - were offered immunity to try to prosecute the “stabbers” in the attack and to win back confidence after three earlier murder convictions were quashed after police officers were accused of fabricating interview evidence, the court heard.
PC Blakelock was stabbed some 40 times when he and a colleague were surrounded during disturbances sparked by the death of Cynthia Jarrett from a heart attack during a police search of her home in Tottenham, north London, in October 1985.
Her death led to riots with a “sinister edge” when some of the rioters “appeared to have as their target, the death of a police officer”, the Old Bailey was told yesterday.
PC Blakelock, 40, was part of an 11-strong team of officers who went on to the estate to protect firefighters dousing flames during the riot. They were forced to retreat in the face of a large group of rioters, and PC Blakelock and a colleague Richard Coombes were set upon with shouts of “kill the pig”, the court heard.
“The attack on him was without mercy,” said Richard Whittam QC, counsel for the prosecution. “PC Blakelock suffered something in excess of 40 stab type injuries and there appears to have been an attempt made to decapitate him. The attack left him with a knife embedded in his neck.”
Mr Jacobs, who was aged 16 at the time of the attack, was part of the disturbances and has been accused of using a blade to attack the officer. He denies murder.
The court heard that a first police investigation resulted in the convictions of 300 people for public order offences and the convictions of three men for murder in 1987. However their convictions were quashed in 1991 after scientific analysis of their interview notes cast doubt over the case. Two police officers were subsequently put on trial for perverting the course of justice but cleared.
Police launched a second inquiry in 1992 which adopted the “highly unusual” approach to encourage some of those involved in the attack to come forward, the court heard. Police divided the group into “stabbers” and “kickers” – who did not wield weapons and were treated as witnesses rather than suspects for the murder.
A third inquiry began in 2000 after a review of the evidence. It resulted in the arrest and murder charge against Mr Jacobs in part based on the evidence of witnesses involved in the riots, the court heard.
“You will hear of convictions not least arising out of the riots against some of the witnesses,” Mr Whittam told the jury of five women and seven men. “You will hear of problems in relation to substance abuse about drugs and of alcohol.”
Mr Whittam said that members of the jury might disapprove of some of the key prosecution witnesses in the case. “They are all matters that we as the prosecution don’t shirk from,” he said. “It doesn’t make a witness incapable of telling the truth.”
He said that the jury would have to decide if the witnesses admitting kicking the officer to secure immunity offered during the 1992 investigation. PC Blakelock’s widow and three sons were in court to hear the prosecution open its case against Mr Jacobs.
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