Mother of Azelle Rodney still waiting for justice nine years after her son was gunned down by police

A public inquiry ruled his death unlawful, but his family is still in a ‘black hole’

Nine years ago tomorrow, Azelle Rodney was shot and killed by a police officer. Like many parents who have lost a child, Azelle’s mother, Susan Alexander, knows that the day might pass more easily with a formal act of remembrance. But for her and her family that’s still not possible.

“I can’t afford to treat it that way,” she said. “I have to stay the way I am, keep my eye on the ball. When I think it’s all finally over, I hope I can move on with my family and have a proper memorial. But there’s not proper closure yet. We’ll keep in touch on Wednesday. We’ll remember it. But not the way I want.”

On 30 April 2005, Azelle Rodney was one of three people in a car that police suspected was on its way to rob Colombian drug dealers. There were guns in the car, but when he died, Mr Rodney was unarmed. In the moments after the police unit forced the car to stop, it took 2.04 seconds for the elite firearms officer, who is still only publicly known as E7, to fire the eight shots that killed him.

Nothing that has happened since then has moved so fast. It took more than 16 hours to move Mr Rodney’s body from the pavement. It took almost 24 hours for the police to tell his family. It took until his family arrived at the scene to clean the blood away. It took nearly five years for a public inquiry to be announced, and more than seven for it to get under way.

And even now, more than nine months after the inquiry ruled that Azelle Rodney was unlawfully killed – and more than a year after the CPS first saw a draft of the report – Susan Alexander is still waiting for a decision about whether to prosecute the man who killed her son.

The CPS had already looked at the case once, only to conclude, in July 2006, that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute. But despite a letter from the Independent Police Complaints Commission last July asking for the case to be reconsidered, no one at the CPS began to examine it in detail again until January this year. The reason, a spokesman explained, was that until then the reviewing lawyer had been busy with “other professional commitments”.

Azelle Rodney was killed by a fire arms officer in 2005 (Jason Sutcliffe) Azelle Rodney was killed by a fire arms officer in 2005 (Jason Sutcliffe)
When that senior lawyer told Mrs Alexander’s solicitor the same thing via email back in January, he declined to offer any firm timescale for a decision, saying only that there was no prospect of one before the end of May, and adding that it would be “wholly unrealistic and unhelpful” to be any more specific.

Mrs Alexander still finds it difficult to talk about the death of her son. But she agreed to an interview to voice her frustration at the delays in a vital step towards a conclusion to the case. “I thought we’d have a decision within a couple of months [of the end of the inquiry], that we’d be moving towards the end of it,” she said at her house in Feltham, west London, where pictures of Azelle and her other children line the walls. “I’m so disappointed. I just can’t understand why it’s been drawn out for so long. I feel like I’m being ignored. I’ve put in all this time, I’ve sat down with all these people and now I think what for? And now what?”

Seema Malhotra, Mrs Alexander’s local MP, has seen the impact first-hand. “What has really struck me is that this is a family whose life is just on hold,” she said.

“That’s why it’s important to move forward. It’s a complicated case, we know that. But that doesn’t mean it should go on and on without any clarity about when it’s going to conclude. To the family it just feels like it’s gone into a black hole.”

In an answer to a parliamentary question tabled earlier this month by Ms Malhotra, the Solicitor-General said that on average it took six days for the CPS to reach a charging decision. But in a written statement, the CPS pointed out that deaths in custody are “among the most complicated” cases it deals with. And this case is certainly complicated.

Among other difficulties is the fact that E7 was granted immunity in relation to his testimony to the inquiry, meaning that the evidence he gave would be inadmissible. “I really don’t understand that bit,” says Mrs Alexander.

Daniel Machover, Mrs Alexander’s solicitor, acknowledges that in a case this complicated a rapid decision is unrealistic. “I’m not saying that’s the right benchmark,” he said. “Weeks or even months would be acceptable. Even four or five months. But not nine months. And they’ve got to tell us what’s going on. Why should E7 have to wait? Why should my client?”

The CPS also said that “this is a very substantial case with a significant quantity of third-party material in addition to the IPCC case file and the inquiry report”.

But the CPS had the IPCC file within weeks of the end of the inquiry. While E7 applied for a judicial review in the aftermath of the inquiry’s report, a move that ultimately failed, the CPS told Mr Machover that that was not a factor in the timeframe.

To Mr Machover, there’s another explanation for the delays. “I just think they overthink these cases,” he said. “They’re frightened, that’s the bottom line. When the police are accused of violent crime, the CPS approach it with extraordinary caution.”

Michael Mansfield, the QC who represented the families of Mark Duggan and Jean Charles de Menezes, points out that the vast complexity of such cases is often a problem. “These cases nearly always take too long,” he said. “You get a death, then the opening of an inquest, that’s postponed because of a murder inquiry, and so on. And as a result of this multi-layered situation you get enormous delays. It desperately needs streamlining to ensure that these delays don’t drag on for years.”

Andrew Arthur, head of police and prison law at Fisher Meredith solicitors, agrees that “it doesn’t do anyone any good having these matters hanging over everybody for so long”. He added: “I would have thought that given the gravity of what’s being alleged, and how unique a case it is, you’d want a decision as early as possible. There’s always a risk that cases go stale, that you lose the momentum of accountability.”

There’s also the risk that, as well as causing unnecessary pain for Azelle Rodney’s family, the delay will have a more substantial impact: if the CPS does decide to bring a prosecution – which could be against E7 himself or against the Met under health and safety legislation – a defence lawyer could seek to have the case thrown out by arguing that the delay since the events in question could deprive the defendant of a fair trial. E7’s solicitor, Scott Ingram, declined to comment.

What if, come the end of May, the CPS still hasn’t reached a decision? Mrs Alexander isn’t ready to deal with that yet. “It’s hard to think about that,” she said. “If they told me it was going to be months or years more until we got justice… to me it’s already dragged on far too long.” 

The case has taken over her life to the extent that she has been unable to keep a job, and faced difficulties in getting benefits because of her situation. “It’s not on the form,” Mr Machover says drily, “I’m fighting for justice because my son was killed by the police.”

With no end in sight, Mrs Alexander observed, the only way to keep going is “to take it day by day”. “It’s so difficult,” she adds. “Where we started out and where we are now are completely different. But I’m still fighting for my son. Everybody’s moved on. Except us.”

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on