Detectives investigating the case of a black man found hanged on New Year's Day 2000 began a new publicity campaign yesterday to discover what caused his death.
Jason McGowan, 20, was found hanged from railings less than six months after his uncle Errol, 34, died in similar circumstances, having been subjected to a sustained campaign of racial harassment.
Jason's inquest is due to be held in April and police launched a poster campaign yesterday to try to piece together his last movements. Thirty posters will be distributed to shops and service stations in the Ketley area of Telford, Shropshire, where the newspaper worker died.
The two deaths transformed the West Mercia force's handling of suspected racial cases and its Chief Constable had to make an embarrassing public apology. After a series of failings in the initial investigation into Errol's death, experts from Scotland Yard's racial and violent crime task force were called in and made 57 recommendations for improvement.
This latest stage in the police investigation into Jason's death is designed to jog memories on the second anniversary of his body being found near the Elephant and Castle pub. Jason was close to his uncle and had pledged to look into his death.
PC Steve Hunter, who investigates hate crimes for West Mercia Police in Telford, said officers hoped the posters would give a better picture of the tragedy. "We have no new leads or lines of inquiry regarding our investigation into Jason's death," he said. "However, there may be people who were in the area at the time who may not have contacted the police and who may have some useful information for us.
"We have already spoken to around 300 people who were in the Elephant and Castle pub that night but there may be more ... There's a possibility there's someone out there who hasn't come out yet and allegiances change over time."
The deaths of both Jason and Errol McGowan prompted their families to claim racist thugs murdered them and that police ignored or dismissed their race-hate fears. The pressure forced West Mercia Police to reopen its inquiries, after officers initially treated both deaths as suicide.
In July this year, an inquest jury returned a verdict of suicide on Errol McGowan, after hearing that he suffered horrific levels of racial harassment by a gang of 10 to 15 white men. Lawyers said it was Britain's first officially recognised case of someone having been driven to suicide by racial harassment. At the end of the five-week inquest, Michael Gwynne, coroner for Telford and Wrekin, said: "For this community, and each and every part of it, the lessons are clear – the obscenity of racial abuse and harassment must be rooted out."
The family is still considering a private prosecution against police and the gang of racists. Clifton McGowan, Errol's brother and Jason's uncle, dismissed the latest poster campaign as a "PR exercise" but Jason's mother, Doreen, welcomed the move. She said: "They did interview a lot of people but you never know if people might now remember more about it."
A third black man, John Elliot Jnr was also found hanged in Telford last year in a case that bore similarities to the two McGowan cases. However, his family believed a feud over drug dealing and not ethnic differences lay behind his death.
PC Hunter asked anyone with information to contact him on 07989 438618 or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.Reuse content