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Wednesday, September 16, 1998 Published at 17:01 GMT 18:01 UK


Black musician: 'Unlawfully killed'

Menson: Told relatives four white youths set him alight

Community Affairs correspondent Reeta Chakrabati: Family relieved at verdict
A black musician who was found suffering from serious burns in a street in London was unlawfully killed, an inquest has found.

His family welcomed the verdict, but made a stinging attack on the Metropolitan Police for failing to treat the case as a murder.

Michael Tachie-Menson, 30, was still alight when police found him wandering semi-naked and in a dazed state along the North Circular Road in London in the early hours of the morning of 28 January 1997.

He was taken to Billericay Hospital in Essex where he died two weeks later from multiple organ failure brought on by his burns.

'Appalling and horrible'

A jury of four men and six women at Hornsey Coroner's Court in north London returned a majority verdict of nine to one that Mr Tachie-Menson was unlawfully killed.

The BBC's Reeta Chakrabati: "Police say procedures have since been tightened"
Mr Tachie-Menson's family said it was "relieved" at the verdict, but attacked the police for failing to interview the victim in hospital. The police said they were acting on "medical advice".

The coroner, Dr William Dolman, sympathised with the family, saying: "What happened that night was an appalling and horrible event."

"It is no surprise to me that you have been angry and deeply troubled and distressed by the circumstances of his death."

However, Dr Dolman cautioned against blaming the police for lack of progress in the case.

"From what we have heard, it is clear that theirs has been a difficult task against appalling odds, hampered by the absence of any witnesses," he said.

Dr Dolman said the purpose of the inquiry was not to examine the police investigation into the case.

Police Complaints Authority

During proceedings, the Tachie-Menson family's representative, Terry Munyard, had been warned by Dr Dolman as he questioned a policewoman who had failed to cordon off the crime scene.

"This is not an inquiry into police investigations. You have taken it as far as I'm going to allow it," he said.

Mr Tachie-Menson's relatives have campaigned for the attack to be recognised as racially-motivated and won an apology from the Metropolitan Police after a disciplinary investigation by the Police Complaints Authority.

Scotland Yard said that three officers had retired before the inquiry was completed and four junior officers have received "words of advice and constructive discussions with senior officers".

The officer leading the police investigation, Detective Chief Inspector Robin Scott, said he still had no substantial leads or evidence in the case.

Human rights

Mr Tachie-Menson's family also strongly criticised the inquest system for limiting the information that could be disclosed to the victim's family.

The family said it would be pressing for a more open and transparent system in the European Court of Human Rights.

Their comments came after the lawyer representing the family of black teenager Stephen Lawrence, Michael Mansfield QC, said racism in the police force was so deeply engrained that it was not even recognised.

He made the comments in his final submission to the inquiry into the handling of the teenager's racially-motivated killing on Wednesday.

Diagnosed schizophrenic

Mr Tachie-Menson, who had five hit singles during the 1980s with his group Double Trouble, told relatives before he died that he was set alight by four white youths.

He also told ambulancemen he was attacked before changing his story and saying: "I did it."

Mr Tachie-Menson was a diagnosed schizophrenic, but medical experts who examined him in the weeks before his death said he was "much improved" and "not a suicide risk".

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