Silcott to be released 18 years after Blakelock murder case

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Winston Silcott, who was convicted and later cleared of murdering PC Keith Blakelock, is to be released from prison next week after serving 18 years for stabbing to death a boxer.

The decision to free Silcott, announced yesterday, followed an assessment by the Parole Board that the 43-year-old was no longer a risk to the public.

Silcott was convicted of hacking to death PC Blakelock during the 1985 Broadwater Farm riots in Tottenham, north London. But he and two other men had their murder convictions overturned in 1991 after the Court of Appeal heard the police had fabricated evidence.

Silcott remained in jail for the unrelated murder of Anthony Smith, 24, whom he stabbed to death in1984.

In a statement, Silcott said: "I am looking forward to returning to my family and to overturning my conviction."

Tony Murphy, his solicitor, added: "Winston has been a model prisoner, despite a deep sense of injustice. He has spent numerous periods of leave in the community without incident. The real question has always been the safety of the Smith conviction, not least as it coincided with his wrongful conviction on the Blakelock case."

He said Silcott had served nearly four years more than his original 14-year sentence.

Silcott maintains he was acting in self-defence when he stabbed Mr Smith at a party in east London. He is expected to return to his family in Tottenham, where he is believed to have signed up for a course in sound engineering and computers at a local college. Last night his father, William, told The Independent: "It has been too long. It is time for justice to happen. I will welcome him back. From day one the police had it in for him."

Prison sources said Silcott's exact release date had yet to be fixed, but confirmed it would be next week. He has been at Blantyre House open prison in Kent since 2002.

The Parole Board's decision to release Silcott was approved by the Home Office and the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf.

But Silcott will be required to comply with strict licence conditions for the rest of his life and any deterioration in his behaviour, or further offences could see him sent back to jail.

Speaking from jail in November last year about his release he said: "Why would I go abroad or hide? I have done nothing wrong. I don't believe the police will cause me any problems when I get out.

"Every time they say something bad about me it gives me a new lease of life and makes me stronger because I know I am an innocent man."

PC Blakelock, who had three children, was set upon by a mob and hacked to death on 6 October 1985. He suffered 42 wounds. At the time, Silcott was on bail awaiting trial for the murder of Mr Smith. He had previously been acquitted of a murder charge relating to the stabbing of Lennie McIntosh, a 19-year-old postal worker, in 1979. Silcott was cleared of killing PC Blakelock after a police interview containing the only evidence against him was found to be altered.Two other men, Engin Raghip and Mark Braithwaite, were also convicted of the murder, and later cleared on appeal.

Silcott claims the police targeted him because of his position as founder of the Broadwater Farm Youth Association which spoke up for black youths.

Despite more than 1,000 police photos of the riots, none showed Silcott to be present. He won £50,000 damages for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution from the Metropolitan Police four years ago.

In November last year, his mother, Mary, said scathing newspaper reports about her son's trips into the community in preparation for his expected release had been difficult to bear. "When I see these stories I sit down and cry," she said.

"Our feelings count for nothing. I don't understand why Winston is still being linked to the Blakelock case when he has been cleared.

"As the years of his sentence go by it gets harder and harder for us. We are serving the sentence with him."

Harry Fletcher, the assistant general secretary of Napo, the probation union, said: "He has served 18 years and most people convicted of murder serve 12 to 14."

But PC Norman Brennan, who founded the group Protect the Protectors, said: "I do not believe that Winston Silcott should be released. I don't know how anyone can say, bearing in mind his previous history, including being convicted of the murder of Smith, that he is unlikely to reoffend."

Two decades in the hands of justice

1980 Silcott is acquitted of murdering Lennie McIntosh, 19, who was stabbed to death

December 1984 Anthony Smith, 24, a boxer is stabbed to death by Silcott in a fight at a party in Hackney, east London

6 October 1985 Broadwater Farm riots in Tottenham, north London, in which PC Keith Blakelock, right, is hacked to death trying to protect firemen from a mob

February 1986 Silcott given life sentence for murder of Anthony Smith

March 1987 Silcott is convicted along with Mark Braithwaite and Engin Raghip of murdering PC Blakelock

25 November 1991 Murder conviction against Silcott, Raghip and Braithwaite, is overturned after the Court of Appeal is told the police fabricated evidence

15 October 1999 Silcott wins £50,000 damages for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution from the Met

July 2002 Prisoner is moved to Blantyre House open prison in Kent

15 October 2003 Solicitors announce Silcott is to be released on parole next week