McGowan was scared for his life, inquest told

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The Independent Online

More alarming evidence emerged yesterday of the torment suffered by a black doorman who was found hanged in Telford after being threatened by racists.

The Telford and Wrekin coroner, Michael Gwynne, spoke of the "most awful picture" in the mind of Errol McGowan, 34, who believed he would be killed by far-right extremists. He was found hanged on 2 July 1999.

Mr McGowan's former colleague and close friend Malik Hussain, told the inquest that the race-hate campaign involved a gang of between 10 and 15 people, including "one or two" women.

Mr Hussain later named members of the gang including Rob Boyle and Eddie Solon. Asked about the effect of the threats on his friend, he said: "It started getting to him ... I could see it."

The coroner asked him: "You would say he became more and more frightened over the last few weeks of his life?" Mr Hussain replied: "That's right."

Mr Hussain was asked by Ronald Thwaites QC, for West Mercia Police, about an incident when he was with Mr McGowan at the Chicken Inn takeaway in Telford on 8 May 1999. Mr Thwaites said: "I think you were assaulted by Rob Boyle and others?"

Mr Hussain was asked why his claim that his attackers taunted: "There ain't no black in the Union Jack" had not been made in his first police statement and was only reported to officers 13 days later.

The doorman told the jury that he "did not have much confidence" in the police because officers arriving at the incident had sprayed him three times in the face with CS gas and arrested him. He claimed police knew what was happening to him and Mr McGowan but "didn't give a damn".

Mr Hussain, who required hospital treatment after the incident, said he reported the racist element to the gang attack, two days after the incident, to the local race equality council. Charges against him were dropped. He said the harassment against him, Mr McGowan and another doorman, Kailash Jassal, then became worse and occurred every weekend.

Mr Hussain, who appeared at the inquest with his left wrist in plaster, was escorted into the hearing by four private security guards who stood alongside him as he gave evidence.

He said Mr McGowan was so "shook up about" the harassment that he intended to give up the job.

The day Mr McGowan died would have been his last night at the pub, the Charlton Arms hotel, he said.

Mr Jassal told the jury that he and his colleagues had suffered abuse throughout the Telford area of Wellington.

The coroner, who had earlier described the evidence in the case as shocking and horrific, said: "I have lived in Wellington all my life. I am finding this very distressing. I think a lot of people will have been unaware of what you are giving evidence about. But that does not mean of course that it is not true."

Mr Jassal said Mr McGowan had been terrified that he would be killed by far-right extremists and had warned his colleague: "Somebody is going to die in this town before the police do anything about it." Mr Jassal said he thought his friend had killed himself.

The jury also heard from Robert King, head door supervisor at the Charlton Arms and the father of one of Mr McGowan's nephews. Mr King said he had also been the subject of abuse and threats from the same gang because of his relationship with a black woman and his black and Asian colleagues. He said Eddie Solon had approached him at another pub and complained: "Fucking niggers and Pakis should be off the doors." Mr King, who said his pub continued to use multi-ethnic doorstaff, said he believed the hate campaign stemmed from an incident at Telford's Station Hotel, a year or two earlier, involving Mr Hussain and members of the gang.

Mr King agreed with Mr Thwaites that Mr McGowan had become "depressed and subdued" before he died.

The case continues.