Letter: Unequal at gunpoint

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The Independent Online
Sir: The sight, on our TV screens, of a defenceless man lying injured in the road, and being shot dead in cold blood by a policeman, is horrifying. By any civilised legal code such an action is unquestionably murder. It does not matter how evil the dead man is, or whether he deserved it or not. The universal standards of civilisation, normally defended to the hilt by the serious press, is that he was entitled to a fair trial.

David Cohen ('Alwyn's last trek', 30 March) never considers this. To him the killing is either 'a generations-old battle finally lost' or 'a thug getting what he deserved'. Alwyn Wolfaardt was clearly not a nice man, but he was surely no worse than the IRA people shot on Gibraltar. Quite properly, the press raised the alarm there, and looked very closely indeed at the possibility of unlawful extra-judicial killing. The evil of those killed is not an excuse for shooting them, if they can safely be arrested and brought to trial.

Yet when in South Africa an unquestionably extra-judicial killing takes place, the fact is not even mentioned as such. Why is this? One might think it was inverted colour prejudice - the man killed was white, the policeman black. But I don't think it is. It is the old- fashioned colour prejudice.

It goes like this: 'You cannot expect a black policeman from Bophuthatswana to behave to a civilised standard, so we mustn't be hard on him,' and 'A white man doesn't deserve any mercy, because he should know better.'

I think all people are equal, and equal before the law. It's a pity the British press no longer does.

Yours faithfully,


Market Rasen, Lincolnshire