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Saturday, October 16, 1999 Published at 02:55 GMT 03:55 UK


Silcott police pay-out 'disgraceful'

Winston Silcott: "Naturally pleased"

The widow of a policeman killed during a riot in London has criticised a £50,000 pay-out to convicted killer Winston Silcott, who was cleared of murdering the officer.

BBC News' Peter Gould: Outcry over payment
Pc Keith Blakelock's widow, Elizabeth, said: "It is upsetting and insulting that he has received this money.

"It is disgraceful and I feel it is completely wrong. I am too upset to talk about this issue again - there is nothing more to say."

Pc Blakelock's colleague and friend Dick Coombs - who was scarred for life in the attack - told the BBC he was angry at the pay-out.

He said it was particularly galling because he said the Metropolitan Police had refused to fund fully his medical treatment.

Mr Coombs said he was "devastated" and said the news had "made him ill".

The Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, also criticised the pay-out.

Federation spokesman Glen Smyth told the BBC: "Officers, particularly in London and those who were with Keith on that night, particularly Pc Coombs, will be horrified, as will Keith's wife and children."

Home Secretary Jack Straw said: "I obviously understand the concern of those who have expressed those views but these in the end are decisions that are made by the Metropolitan Police."

Glen Smyth, of the Police Federation: "Officers who were with Keith that night will be horrified"
Shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe added: "Someone who is serving a life sentence for murder should not benefit from the taxpayer like this."

The Metropolitan Police made the payment to settle a lawsuit which Silcott filed against them for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution.

Pc Blakelock was beaten and hacked to death with a machete by a mob after he became separated from colleagues on the riot-torn Broadwater Farm estate in Tottenham, north London, in 1985.

In 1987 Winston Silcott, Mark Braithwaite and Engin Raghip were convicted of his murder but all three were cleared in 1991 when their convictions were quashed by the Court of Appeal.

Silcott's solicitor Clive Romain told Channel 4 News his client, currently serving life in Maidstone prison for murdering boxer Anthony Smith, was "naturally pleased".

Mr Romain said the payment followed "a clear acceptance by counsel for the police that Winston Silcott did not kill Pc Blakelock".

[ image: Keith Blakelock: Murdered in October 1985]
Keith Blakelock: Murdered in October 1985
He added: "This has been a clear miscarriage of justice.

"This compensation can only partially compensate Winston for what he's been through, but we welcome it."

But Mr Romain said: "He remains very concerned about the enormous slur that there has been on his reputation.

"Winston is in prison in respect of a quite separate matter which he says he did not commit and which is coming up for parole."

[ image: Pc Blakelock's widow, Elizabeth, has received no compensation]
Pc Blakelock's widow, Elizabeth, has received no compensation
But Mr Smyth said: "How on earth it can be right for somebody who is a convicted murderer in prison serving a life sentence to receive vast sums of public money, it seems bizarre."

Pc Norman Brennan, of the police pressure group Protect the Protectors, said: "I thought police morale could not sink any lower but this will do it."

Silcott received a further £17,000 in compensation in 1991 after his conviction for murdering Pc Blakelock, a father of three, was quashed by the Court of Appeal.

Forensic tests suggested evidence against him may have been fabricated by police officers.

Former Detective Chief Superintendent Graham Melvin and ex-Detective Inspector Maxwell Dingle were cleared at the Old Bailey in 1994 of fabricating evidence.

In 1995 Silcott was granted up to £200,000 in legal aid to sue the Met for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and abuse of position but the following year the Court of Appeal blocked the action.

'Reluctantly settled'

Silcott admits killing Smith, who died at a party a few months before Pc Blakelock's murder, but says he acted in self-defence and should not have been convicted of murder.

The Metropolitan Police issued a statement, saying: "After careful consideration and detailed legal advice from senior counsel the Metropolitan Police Service has reluctantly decided to settle out of court the civil action brought by Winston Silcott.

"In settling this action for £50,000 we have not admitted liability."

The statement said: "We recognise that this decision will cause disappointment and distress to many officers in the Metropolitan Police service, especially those on duty on the night, and, most of all, to Keith Blakelock's widow Elizabeth."

Scotland Yard said it was currently undertaking a review of the case.

Silcott's brother, George, told BBC GLR's black news programme Upfront: "This whole case as far as I'm concerned is based on racism and injustice on the part of people in this country.

"A man has been framed for a killing that he did not commit."

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