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Geeta Guru-Murthy
"Michael Menson died 16 days after being set alight by his tormentors"
 real 28k

Geeta Guru-Murthy reports for BBC News
"The Crown have alleged a racial motive""
 real 28k

Tuesday, 21 December, 1999, 15:39 GMT
Lessons from Menson murder

Michael Menson: Died 16 days after the attack


By community affairs reporter Geeta Guru-Murthy

The late Michael Menson was a musician - his band, Double Trouble and the Rebel MC, enjoyed chart success in the 1980s.

The son of a Ghanaian diplomat, Michael developed paranoid schizophrenia and depression. His death at the age of 30 was horrific.



All we get (from police) is lies and resistance, and that is so fundamentally worrying
Essie Menson
Lost on a street in north London, Michael was attacked twice. His tormentors were determined to burn him alive, throwing fuel at him, setting his back on fire.

He suffered terrible burns and died 16 days later.

But the police did not treat this as murder - at first they assumed that Michael had set fire to himself.

Although he told them he had been attacked, officers did not take a statement from Michael before he died, nor did they look for evidence.

Even two years later, the police told the inquest they were not sure how Michael had died.

New inquiry

Essie Menson, one of Michael's 10 siblings, said the police did not care because Michael was black and mentally ill.

"He's a young black man, he's found severely burned in the street. It's difficult to conceive of a situation which would generate more police activity," she said.

"(Yet) all we get is lies and resistance, and I think that is, essentially, so fundamentally worrying."

The inquest verdict of unlawful killing forced a new police inquiry.

John Grieve, head of the Racial and Violent Crime Task Force, brought an innovative intelligence-led approach and much determination.



I'm not the one that killed Michael Menson
Ozguy Cevat
Three men went on trial over Menson's death.

Mario Pereira and Barry Charaalmbous Constantinou denied murdering Michael and were tried at the Old Bailey.

Pereira was convicted of murder. Constantinou was cleared of murder but convicted of manslaughter.

The men had rejected suggestions that race was the motive for the attack, despite secretly taped conversations in which they made racist comments.

The defendants offered different explanations. Pereira said he was not at the scene of the attack and that it was possible Michael had committed suicide.

Constantinou said that although he was at the scene, he was sitting in a car nearby, unaware of what was happening.

Cyprus

But more than one trial has been held.

Police travelled thousands of miles, crossing legal and diplomatic hurdles in an extraordinary move.

Suspect Ozguy Cevat fled to Northern Cyprus just after the attack on Michael - but he could not be extradited because the UK does not officially recognise the Turkish north.

So the Met asked the Turkish authorities to help and last month Cevat was tried, convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 14 years in jail in Nicosia.

The day before the verdict he was still claiming his innocence.

"If his family was here, I'd say it's a terrible thing, but I'm not guilty. I'm not the one that killed Michael Menson," Cevat told the BBC.

New culture

Police hope that by bringing a case in such politically complex territory, they have demonstrated a new commitment to race crime.

The Menson family say some of the errors were made during the McPhereson inquiry into the death of Stephen Lawrence. They find that alarming.

This case has shown evidence of a new police commitment and the Met wants this to be a turning point.

But the force will remain under scrutiny to show that, even in the absence of persistent family and public pressure, it is delivering fairness to all regardless of race.

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See also:
21 Dec 99 |  UK
Man guilty of murdering musician
06 Jul 99 |  UK
New arrest over musician killing
24 Jun 99 |  UK
Two deny Menson murder
20 Dec 99 |  UK
Menson jury deliberations continue

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