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Saturday, 19 February, 2000, 18:56 GMT
Victims relive race attacks

Ricky Reel Ricky Reel's body was found in the River Thames

Relatives of victims of racist attacks have been speaking of their despair at the violence and police indifference experienced by their families.

Speakers from 13 Asian and black families gathered to address the Reclaiming the Struggle conference, held on the anniversary of the inquiry into the death of black teenager Stephen Lawrence.

I believe there was a systematic effort to dissuade us from asking questions, and to minimise the impact of another black death not being taken seriously
Kwesi Menson
Mohammed Najeib, whose son Sarfraz was the victim of a beating which led to the arrest of five men, including two Leeds United footballers, told of his own experience at the hands of racist attackers.

Mr Najeib, who came to Britain in 1965, said: "I was attacked by six so-called skinheads in the early 70s and I hoped nothing like this would ever happen again.

"But it did - my son was brutally attacked in a racist incident.

'Left for dead'

"My youngest son, Sarfraz, was basically left for dead. This has left my family totally devastated."

Referring to the experiences of other families affected by racial violence, he said: "I hope my family doesn't have to wait years before we can get justice."

The conference, organised by the Institute of Race Relations, the National Civil Rights Movement and the Monitoring Group, was organised to discuss the implementation of the Macpherson report into the police handling of Stephen Lawrence's death.

Also speaking was the mother of Asian youth Ricky Reel, whose body was discovered following a suspected racial attack.

She described how police joked and laughed as they broke the news to her young children during her absence.

Sukhdev Reel, of Hillingdon, London, said two officers told her 17-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son their brother was dead - then failed to help the girl as she suffered an asthma attack.

Asthma attack

"The police officers knew I was away but they came to my house and said their brother was dead," she said.

"My son went into shock and my daughter had an asthma attack. They stood there laughing and joking as my daughter had to crawl upstairs on her own to get her inhaler."

Police maintained that Ricky, 20, died after slipping into the River Thames, but an inquest returned an open verdict. A report by the Police Complaints Authority has not been made public.

Kwesi Menson, whose musician brother Michael, 30, died after being racially abused, assaulted and set alight in January 1997, told how police officers refused to take evidence from the victim as he lay dying in hospital.

Race attack victim Michael Menson Micheal Menson died after being set alight
He said: "I didn't know that notes I had made would be the only record of what had happened.

"From that point on I believe there was a systematic effort to dissuade us from asking questions, and to minimise the impact of another black death not being taken seriously."

Michael's sister Essie added that the prosecution of her brother's killers had failed to bring her any satisfaction because racist victims were still failing to receive fair treatment by the police.

She said that home secretary Jack Straw had been trying to "con the public into believing that the murder of Stephen Lawrence was a one-off".

She added: "The police have continued to say 'actually we don't give a damn'."

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See also:
19 Feb 00 |  UK
Met to fight Lawrence claim
19 Feb 00 |  UK
Race review slams police progress
09 Nov 99 |  UK
Fresh appeal over Ricky's death
10 Feb 00 |  UK
Fury of hangings case family

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