Page last updated at 00:23 GMT, Friday, 25 September 2009 01:23 UK

'I just want the truth'

By Chris Summers
BBC News

In April 2005 an unarmed man was shot dead by police as he sat in the back of a car in north London. Four years later Azelle Rodney's mother is still waiting for an inquest to be held.

Susan Alexander, Azelle's mother
If they can show me something to prove my son was a criminal I would accept it but I haven't seen anything
Susan Alexander

"I just want to get to the truth of what happened," says Susan Alexander.

Since her son's death, she has read newspaper articles claiming he was a "crack dealer" and a "drug baron".

An inquest has never been held because the police have refused to release details of the intelligence - thought to be from a phone tap - on which they were acting.

This led to a national debate about whether "secret inquests" should be allowed, to prevent information being revealed about phone-tapping methods.

A year ago Justice Minister Jack Straw dropped plans for secret inquests and next month the Coroner's Bill comes back before Parliament with campaigners hoping to insert a clause which would allow the Azelle Rodney inquest to go ahead.

On 30 April 2005 Mr Rodney, 24, was a passenger in the rear of a silver Volkswagen Golf.

At around 7.40 that evening the police, apparently acting on intelligence, forced the car to a halt in Hale Lane, Edgware.

A few seconds later Mr Rodney was dead, shot in the head at point blank range by a police officer, who would later claim he thought he was reaching for a gun.

The two men in the front - Wesley Lovell, 26, and Frank Graham, 24 - were later jailed for seven and six years respectively for possessing firearms.

They had been under police surveillance for hours, possibly days, but details of that operation have never fully emerged.

Mrs Alexander believes her son was simply getting a lift to Edgware, where he lived, and was unaware that Lovell and Graham were criminals with guns.

Azelle Rodney
His mother believes Azelle was in the wrong place at the wrong time

Lovell, who pleaded guilty, claimed in court he had allowed Mr Rodney to use his flat to produce crack cocaine to cancel a drugs debt.

But Mrs Alexander said she was angry at the two men who she argues bore a moral responsibility for what happened to her son.

"My anger is primarily at the police but secondary to that I can't understand how these two people got away and nothing happened to them," she said.

Mrs Alexander said she attended court when they were sentenced but she said they never spoke to her and never offered her an explanation of what happened that night or why her son was in their car.

'Mistaken identity'

"To this day I believe it was mistaken identity or something but they have never been held to account," she said.

Mrs Alexander said her son had been a promising footballer - his cousin, Jermaine Beckford, is now a top player with Leeds United - but suffered a hip injury in his teens which ended any hopes of making a living in the sport.

Shooting scene
The shooting happened in a busy part of north west London

She said that although he was struggling to make his way in the world at the time of his death he was not a gangster and had only a minor criminal record.

"His girlfriend, Monique, was heavily pregnant and he was really looking forward to his baby being born and that was his focus," she said.

His daughter, who is now four years old, was born the day after her father's funeral.

Mrs Alexander said she was not naive and did not believe her son was an "angel" but she said she simply wanted to know how he ended up dead.

'Show me proof'

She said: "If they can show me something to prove my son was a criminal I would accept it but I haven't seen anything. I haven't had any truth or any justice."

Mrs Alexander said: "The government hasn't got enough power over the police. The police are taking the law into their own hands. Azelle deserved a fair trial if he had done something wrong.

"Other people could have been hurt that day. It was a busy area and people were running for cover."

As for the police's sensitivity about phone-tapping, she said: "We don't want to know how you did it, we just want to know what you knew. I respect that they may have to do it (tap phones) but why can't they tell me what they learned?

"If they told me 'your son was doing something wrong and we were within our rights to do what we did' then I'd go away and stop all this.

CORONER'S RULING ON AZELLE RODNEY
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"You can't get on with your life unless you know the truth," she said.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: "While we regret the loss of life we would point out that three fully loaded and operational guns were found in the car and the two other men in the car were both jailed after admitting serious criminal offences."

He also said the Independent Police Complaints Commission had handed a report to the Crown Prosecution Service who had decided no officers should be charged in connection with the shooting.

Chris.Summers-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk



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The inquest that may never be
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