The Crown Prosecution Service has defended its decision to put a convicted rioter on trial for the killing of PC Keith Blakelock after the dead man’s family watched as a seventh man was cleared of one of the country’s most notorious unsolved murders.
Nicky Jacobs, 45, punched the air and wept after he was found not guilty by a jury at the Old Bailey following a controversial trial based in part on the evidence of men involved in the 1985 attack who had been granted immunity from prosecution. It means that after the third inquiry into the killing at the Broadwater Farm Estate, there is still no justice for the family of the dead officer. They said they were “extremely sad and disappointed” at the verdict.
Three people were jailed in 1987 for the murder but were later cleared after new scientific evidence revealed that crucial interview notes had been tampered with. Two of the men, Winston Silcott and Mark Braithwaite, were among the defendant’s supporters in the public gallery.
The officer’s widow, Elizabeth Johnson, sank back in her seat and appeared visibly shocked as a jury took six hours to return not guilty verdicts. The trial was the culmination of a multi-million pound investigation that followed her personal plea for justice.
Police said that they knew the identity of about 20 people involved in the attack and appealed to other witnesses to come forward, saying that the case would not be closed.
“We are obviously extremely sad and disappointed at the verdict,”G said the family in a statement. ”We viewed this trial as an opportunity to see some form of justice served for Keith. There were many people involved in a murder on that night of 6 October 1985 and it is regretful that no-one has yet to be found guilty despite the number of people with knowledge of the events of that night.”
Jacobs, who is expected to be released from Belmarsh Prison tomorrow, received one of the longest jail sentences for affray in the immediate aftermath of the riot. But he was not charged with murder until last year, in part on the strength of three witness accounts. The prosecution also claimed that a rap poem about the killing found in his cell and comments made to a police officer 12 years later represented two apparent confessions.
However, his legal team said that the evidence against him was based on a witness’s delusional fantasy, mistaken identity, and the prospect of payment for assisting police. Two of the witnesses were paid £5,000 in 1994 for their assistance, the court heard, but have not been paid in the latest inquiry.
Jenny Hopkins, Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS London, said the decision to charge Jacobs followed a review of three police inquiries over 20 years. “Following this review we concluded that there was sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and it was in the public interest to charge Nicholas Jacobs with the murder of PC Keith Blakelock.
“This evidence included three witnesses who the prosecution say gave their accounts independently of each other with no suggestion of collusion. It was right that all the evidence in this case was put before a jury and we respect its decision.”
Silcott, who was found guilty at the Old Bailey of murdering PC Blakelock in 1987 before his conviction was quashed in 1991, said the police had brought the case because they were “bitter about what happened” following his acquittal.
“My conclusion is that they had promised the Blakelock family that they would get justice for him and so they were trying to get anyone they could,” he told reporters outside the court.