Police say Telford hangings were murders after all

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The Independent Online

Police investigating the deaths of two black men found mysteriously hanged in Telford confirmed yesterday that they are now treating the cases as a murder inquiry.

Police investigating the deaths of two black men found mysteriously hanged in Telford confirmed yesterday that they are now treating the cases as a murder inquiry.

In a brief statement, West Mercia Police said yesterday that detectives were now "making an initial presumption of foul play" in the investigation into the deaths of Harold "Errol" McGowan and his nephew Jason. This is a significant shift from the view that police took at the beginning of the year. Then, six weeks ago, after a campaign by the men's family was highlighted by the Independent, police agreed to re-open the investigation into the deaths. The family had accused police of making the assumption that both deaths were suicides.

The turnaround is a vindication for the McGowans, who had refused to accept the coincidence that two members of their family, neither with any history of instability, should be found hanged within six months of each other. They insisted that both men had suffered racial harassment and that there were sufficient grounds for a murder inquiry.

This is now the view of the police. At a meeting last week in Telford, Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Grieve, the head of Scotland Yard's racial and violent crime task force and special adviser to the McGowan investigation, told the family that detectives were now working "on the premise that they were murdered". Mr Grieve has spent several days in Telford examining the case.

Last night, Sharon Buttery, Errol McGowan's common law wife said that the family was "deeply grateful" to the Independent for the way it had picked up the case. She said "without the coverage I don't think we would have got to where we are today".

Leroy McGowan, a brother of Errol's, said he hoped that if West Mercia chief constable Peter Hampson apologised for the failings of the earlier inquiries, the family could work with the police. He said: "We want anybody who has got information to go to the police. Confidence must be put back into the investigation so that people will co-operate."

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