Telford hanging inquest reveals 'awful picture' of abuse suffered by doorman

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The Independent Online

The colleague of a black doorman found hanged in Telford told an inquest yesterday how his friend was terrified of racist threats against him and had told him that he thought he was going to die.

Kailash Jassal said he had been for a walk with Errol McGowan on the Saturday before Mr McGowan was found dead. Mr McGowan told him: "Somebody is going to die in this town before the police do anything about it." Mr McGowan, 34, was found in a house in Telford on 2 July 1999 with the flex of an iron around his neck.

For the past three days, the inquest jury has been told of a campaign of racial harassment and death threats, which Michael Gwynne, the Telford and Wrekin coroner, described as shocking and horrific.

Mr Gwynne said yesterday: "We are beginning to form the most awful picture" of what was going on in the mind of the dead man and his colleagues at the Charlton Park hotel, who were also being targeted.

Malik Hussain and Mr Jassal, former colleagues of Mr McGowan, gave evidence that the race campaign was being conducted by a gang of 10 to 15 people, led by men named as Rob Boyle and Eddie Solon. The harassment had been reported to the police, the jury heard.

When Mr Jassal ­ who said he believed his colleague had taken his own life because "he had no one to turn to" ­ told the inquest he was continuing to receive threats nearly two years later, he was told by the coroner to make a statement to the police after giving evidence.

The inquest heard from Robert King, the head doorman, who said he was also targeted by the gang because he had had a relationship with a black woman ­ Mr McGowan's sister ­ and worked alongside ethnic minorities.

The coroner said: "It's difficult to encompass the emotions that [Mr King] has had to go through. He has made an honest and straightforward statement that he too was the subject of abuse from this tiny number of people who appear to have made life absolute hell for a number of people." Mr King said he had been told by the gang that: "Niggers and Pakis should be off the doors."

Mr Gwynne said that as a native of Telford, he found the evidence of the abuse, which included telephoned death threats, throat-cutting gestures, verbal abuse and fights, "very distressing".

Mr King said he received a phone call from Mr McGowan the weekend before he died, in which the black doorman was so scared he began crying and talked of suicide.

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