A man has been arrested in connection with the murder of PC Keith Blakelock, the police officer stabbed to death during the Broadwater Farm riots in London 25 years ago.
The 40-year-old suspect – who would have been 15 at the time of the murder – was arrested in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, on Friday in what police are describing as a "significant development" in the unsolved case. It is understood he was arrested after "new evidence" came to light.
PC Blakelock was murdered by a machete-wielding gang in 1985 during riots in Tottenham, north London. He was 40. Three men, Winston Silcott, Mark Braithwaite and Engin Raghip were convicted of his murder in 1987 and jailed, but their convictions were quashed on appeal in 1991.
Three juveniles, two aged 15 and another aged 16, were also charged with the murder in 1987, but their cases were dismissed when the judge ruled that confessions they gave to the police during interview were inadmissible.
The man arrested on Friday is not one of them, neither is he Silcott, Braithwaite or Raghip. Police refused to identify the man, but confirmed that he lived in Tottenham during the riots and has since moved to Suffolk. He has been bailed until May.
PC Blakelock's murder came at a time of heightened racial tensions in London. The Broadwater Farm riots happened in October 1985, one month after the Brixton riots, and were sparked by the death of a black woman, Cynthia Jarrett.
Ms Jarrett, 49, had a heart attack during a police raid on her home. Four officers were searching the house after stopping her son, Floyd Jarrett, who had apparently given a false name when questioned about an illegal tax disc.
During the subsequent riots PC Blakelock and 11 fellow officers were called to the Tangmere tower block to protect fireman dealing with a blaze.
The officers were attacked by a 50-strong gang who threw bottles and bricks. When they began to retreat PC Blakelock tripped, was pounced on and hacked to death. He suffered 40 stab wounds, including severe cuts to his neck.
The 1987 trial heard that the mob planned to decapitate the officer and put his head on a pole as a warning to other policemen. Silcott, who was 27 at the time of the trial, and Mr Braithwaite and Mr Raghip who were 20, were convicted and jailed for life. But their convictions were quashed amid allegations that detectives had fabricated statements. Silcott was not freed, however, as he was in prison serving 18 years for another murder, for which he had been on bail when PC Blakelock was killed.
Last night Silcott told The Independent: "I haven't heard anything about this and I ain't got nothing to say."
In 2004 police excavated an unidentified item from a garden in Tottenham. The same year they removed PC Blakelock's overalls from the Metropolitan Police's Black Museum, which is not open to the public, for forensic examination.
The latest arrest is not related to either of those inquiries.
PC Blakelock's son, Lee, has since joined Durham Police, and in 2005, the fallen officer's widow, Elizabeth Johnson, made an appeal to the public on the 20th anniversary of her husband's death. She said: "For years we have lived with the uncertainty of not knowing who is responsible for what happened to Keith and this has been extremely hard to live with. Not knowing the truth about the circumstances that led to Keith's murder makes it all the more difficult for us."