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Tuesday, November 2, 1999 Published at 21:42 GMT


Race attack on Ricky was 'minor'

Parents of Ricky Reel believe he was murdered

The racial attack on Ricky Reel and his friends on the night the Asian student vanished was dismissed as a "minor scuffle" shortly before his body was found drowned in the Thames.

A witness who was with Ricky, 20, and two other Asian friends the night he went missing, said the group had dismissed the attack as something commonplace.

Ricky's family are convinced the Brunel University student was murdered - and believe the attack may have had something to do with his disappearance.

But the witness, known only as Dave for security reasons, told the inquest at Fulham Town Hall: "On the night in question we did not think much of it.

Group bought alcohol

"If we had known that Ricky was in some sort of danger we would have gone to the police but on the night in question we thought these things happen, when you go out and we did not make much of it."

[ image: Sukhdev Reel:
Sukhdev Reel: "Ricky was afraid of water"
John Bevan, QC, representing the Metropolitan Police, said that in a separate statement made to officers, Dave had said he was "99% certain" that the two white youths involved in the attack had made their escape on a bus shortly afterwards.

Ten bottles of beer, a bottle of Bacardi and a half bottle of whisky were bought by Ricky's friends on the night he disappeared.

The friends were "merry" when they left their car parked in Kingston upon Thames, south west London, before heading to a nightclub.

It was not disclosed how much Ricky had consumed.

The inquest was shown CCTV camera footage of Ricky's last recorded moments in the early hours of 15 October, 1997 where he was seen walking alone in Kingston.

'Flawed' inquiry

Sergeant Richard de la Pole, a police diver, found the student's body on 21 October - face down in a couple of feet of water.

He said he discovered Ricky's body close to where his friends had parked their car on the night of the disappearance.

[ image: Police handling of the case attacked]
Police handling of the case attacked
Police originally said the youngster had drowned accidentally while urinating into the river but three officers were later disciplined over the first inquiry into his death.

Earlier this year, the Police Complaints Authority found the officers guilty of neglect of duty and apologised to the Reel family for "weaknesses and flaws" in the investigation.

The investigation was reopened in August this year with a fresh appeal for information.

Ricky's mother Sukhdev Reel told the inquiry on Monday that she believed Ricky, who had a phobia of water, had been taken to the river against his will.

The inquest was adjourned until Wednesday when the jury is due to visit the area where Ricky disappeared.

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