Thursday, 5 December 2013

London mourns passing and celebrate memories of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela: South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, President of South Africa 1994-99

Nelson Mandela salutes the crowd and global TV audience at the
1990 London concert at Wembley Stadium. (Photo: © Rod Leon)

Nelson Mandela: A London Salute

Londoners began to mourn tonight's (Thursday, 5 December) passing of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, and former President of South Africa 1994-99, writes Paul Coleman.

But Londoners' also hold fond memories of Mandela's visits to the city that stretch back to the summer of 1962. Mandela came to the UK capital seeking public and political support for the African National Congress' struggle against the white-led apartheid regime. Mandela spent time at the Haringey home of Oliver Tambo, a fellow ANC leader. A lawyer, Mandela also visited the Royal Courts of Justice.

  Shortly after returning to South Africa, the apartheid regime sentenced Mandela and other freedom fighters to life imprisonment. Mandela spent the next 27 years in prison for daring to lead others in the fight against the apartheid ideology of racial domination and segregation.

London and apartheid
London-based governments at Westminster largely showed practical support to the apartheid regime - and the regime itself ran a major propaganda centre at South Africa House, the embassy building on the east side of Trafalgar Square. 
  But London also sheltered hundreds of exiled African National Congress members. 
  The city also became the home of the global Anti-Apartheid Movement that campaigned ceaselessly for the release of Mandela and his fellow prisoners. 

Mandela concerts at Wembley
Mandela's 70th birthday in the summer of 1988 was marked by the BBC screening the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute music festival at London's Wembley Stadium on 11 June. An estimated 600 million people in 67 countries watched the concert on TV.
  The concert included songs such as Free Nelson Mandela by Jerry Dammers, Biko by Peter Gabriel and I Just Called to Say I Love You by Stevie Wonder.
  Amongst other performers were Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela and Tracy Chapman.

A second concert at Wembley, Nelson Mandela: An International Tribute for a Free South Africa, was broadcast to over 60 countries on 16 April, 1990. Mandela appeared and spoke on stage for 45 minutes. The concert became an official international reception for Mandela, who had been released from an apartheid jail only two months earlier.
    The above photo, taken by the London-based photographer Rod Leon, shows Mandela saluting the Wembley crowd and the huge global TV audience.
  Artists included Aswad, Jackson Browne, Mica Paris, Neneh Cherry, Simple Minds and Lou Reed.

Mandela, when 78, visited London as President of South Africa. In July 1996, Mandela's four-day state visit included a trip to Brixton, home to one of Britain's largest communities of black people. Thousands of black and white Brixtonians thronged the streets to greet Mandela. His visit also saw him dance next to the Queen and Prince Charles at a special party at the Royal Albert Hall. Mandela stayed at Buckingham Palace.
  in 2008, Mandela celebrated his 90th birthday in London, and stayed at the Dorchester Hotel on Park Lane. He also visited the Queen again at Buckingham Palace.

Statues and sculptures
A statue of Nelson Mandela has stood in Parliament Square since August 2007. A sculpture of Mandela, commissioned by the Greater London Council, was unveiled by ANC president Oliver Tambo beside the Royal Festival Hall on London's South Bank in 1985. Mandela's image also adorns the walls inside South Africa House, now the embassy for the free and multi-racial republic that Mandela sought.

Nelson Mandela House
Del Boy and Rodney, fictitious characters in the popular London sit-com, Only Fools and Horses - that first appeared on BBC TV in 1981 - lived in 'Nelson Mandela House' in Peckham in south London.

© Photo: Courtesy and copyright of Rod Leon

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, December 2013.

Friday, 8 November 2013

The new Camera Cafe Gallery: Guangzhou Edge, Mengxi Zhang

A photographer captures the soul of a city undergoing many changes. Paul Coleman reports from London's newest arts venue.

Living on the edge

Observant and atmospheric, the photography of Mengxi Zhang evocatively captures the impact of globally driven change on the outer fringes of the Chinese city of Guangzhou.
"I decided to explore the edges of the city - and was wowed by the colours and beauty I saw," says Zhang (above), speaking at the opening night of her Guangzhou Edge exhibition at the newly-opened Camera Cafe Gallery. 
  Guangzhou, a city striving to carve a niche in the global economy, remains close to Zhang's heart, and yet distant too. She moved to Guangzhou with her parents when aged 11 and lived in the city centre for seven years.
  Zhang's soulful images show buildings and flyovers dwarfing outer Guangzhou's inhabitants, forgotten statues and slumbering dogs. "That was accidental," adds Zhang. "I didn't wait for people to appear."

Mixed feelings
Zhang's thoughtful photographs reveal much about Guangzhou and reflect her own  feelings too. She returned to China in October 2012 after an eight-year spell living in England. "I was trying to understand my mixed feelings towards this fast changing and familiar-yet-distant motherland of mine," says Zhang. "I heard the outer parts of the city were changing...and I felt I must go and see for myself."

New London gallery
A selection of Zhang's atmospheric winter photographs are premiered in Guangzhou Edge, a special exhibition that launches the Camera Cafe Gallery, a unique new arts exhibition venue in the heart of Bloomsbury, London's literary centre.
Near to the British Museum, and a popular haunt for photographers and many other visitors, the Camera Cafe combines a specialist camera and coffee shop - and now, London's newest arts venue.

Guangzhou Edge runs until Friday, 15 November 2013. Daily, Monday to Friday 11am-7pm, Saturday noon to 7pm. Closed Sunday.
The Camera Cafe Gallery is located at 44 Museum Street, London, WC1A 1LY.
Nearest tubes: Tottenham Court Road, Holborn.

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, November 2013

Monday, 4 November 2013

Olivia Bazlinton, Charlotte Thompson, Elsenham, MPs inquiry into level crossing safety, Robin Gisby: "Negligent", "Appalling", "Fundamental watershed"

A top ranking and highly-paid Network Rail director admits management was "negligent" over the deaths of two young girls at a level crossing - and says the company's treatment of the bereaved families was "appalling". Paul Coleman reports.

"Negligent" and "appalling"

...but a "fundamental watershed"

Robin Gisby, Network Rail managing director for network operations, admits Network Rail management was "negligent" at the time of the December 2005 rail disaster at Elsenham, when two friends, Olivia Bazlinton, aged 14, and Charlotte Thompson, 13, were killed by a train at the Essex station's footpath  level crossing.
"Elsenham was a fundamental watershed for this business," says Gisby, speaking on 4 November 2013 to Members of Parliament on the House of Commons Transport Select Committee inquiry into level crossing safety.
Committee chairman Louise Ellman asks Gisby about the fatalities of Olivia Bazlinton and Charlotte Thompson: "Would you agree it was negligent management at the time of Elsenham?"
- "Yes," replies Gisby.

"It was a watershed," adds Gisby, who is paid over £380,000 in 2013. "What happened there, the state that our company was in over risk assessments (of level crossings), and the subsequent behaviour of the company towards the families involved was quite appalling."

In 2005, Gisby, as Network Rail director of operations and customer services, was responsible for day-to-day train operations. "Somebody else was responsible for maintenance, engineering and asset management," Gisby tells Ellman.
Gisby, asked by Ellman if he was responsible for level crossing risk assessments in 2005, says: "People I had in the organisation at that time were responsible for filling in some of the data. The models and algorithms and their application lay elsewhere within the business."

Ellman asks Gisby to explain an accident report, issued after the 2005 tragedy, that said the two girls were 'trespassers', even though they had both purchased train tickets.
"I think it was quite inadequate and quite inappropriate to use that phrase," replies Gisby. "That choice of words was completely wrong."

Hudd and Hill
Ellman then quizzes Gisby about why two critical documents about Elsenham's level crossing were not revealed before the tragedy and also not disclosed to investigators in its aftermath.
"I can't easily explain," replies Gisby."I don't know why those things weren't produced. They certainly should've been. They were somewhere within the organisation."
The Hill Part B risk assessment and the 'Hudd memo' - revealed only in 2010 by a whistleblower within Network Rail - had warned four years before the girls were killed that the 'risk of disaster' at Elsenham level crossing was 'real'. If Network Rail had acted on recommendations made in the documents - chiefly to install locking pedestrian gates - the two girls would not have been able to access the tracks.

Gisby claims Network Rail is a much different organisation in 2013 - especially in managing level crossings. Tina Hughes and Chris Bazlinton are sat right behind Gisby in the Grimond committee room. Gisby pays tribute to the "actions of the families" of Olivia Bazlinton and Charlotte Thompson after the disaster. 
The families have campaigned against Network Rail to reveal the truth about the dangers of Elsenham's footpath crossing and the risk assessments that predicted disaster - and they have worked with the company to improve level crossing safety at Elsenham, and elsewhere.
"Elsenham was a fundamental watershed for this business," says Gisby. "We are much better now at managing level crossings. The data from accident investigations stands up much better now than the appalling place where we were back in 2005."

Risk at Inquest
Ellman asks Gisby why Network Rail lawyers argued - successfully - in 2007 that risk assessment should not be given to the coroner's inquest into the girls' deaths. "I can't be sure of the view of our legal team there," replies Gisby. "We are in a completely different place. All the risk assessments of our level crossings, we have published in the last year, part of our move to much greater transparency."
Gisby tells Ellman that Network Rail have added a "narrative" element to data and algorithms used to assess risks to level crossing users. "We talk to train drivers and talk much more to the local community to get a much richer view of the current risk profile of a level crossing," he says.
Gisby adds Network Rail will spend over £100 million making risky level crossings safer and closing those deemed as dangerous. "We've still got a long way to go," says Gisby, before reporting another "tragic incident" has occurred at a level crossing that very morning (4 November).

Misuse of 'misuse'
The committee session ends after Stephen Hammond, the government's parliamentary under secretary of state for transport, has given oral evidence. Afterwards, Tina Hughes and Chris Bazlinton, Olivia's parents, personally reproach Hammond for persistently misusing the term 'misuse of level crossings' during his evidence. 
Bazlinton and Hughes tell Hammond that if a level crossing is deemed not safe it is surely wrong to casually say someone involved in an incident there has 'misused' that crossing. They tell Hammond users involved in accidents misunderstand instructions at unsafe crossings; but only a minority deliberately misuse those crossings.
Hammond listens but offers no direct reply, before he shakes their hands and leaves the room.

In January 2012, Network Rail pleads guilty to breaches of health and safety law in relation to the deaths of Olivia Bazlinton and Charlotte Thompson. In March 2012, Network Rail is fined £1 million.

© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, November 2013

Monday, 21 October 2013

Level crossing safety, Elsenham, Olivia Bazlinton, Charlotte Thompson, Transport Select Committee MPs Inquiry

Outside in Whitehall Gardens, the inscription on the military statue chimes: 'The boldest measures are the safest.' 
Inside the nearby House of Commons Grimond committee room, accusations fly about cowardice causing endangerment. 
Chris Bazlinton accuses Network Rail of a cover-up in the aftermath of the death of his daughter, Olivia Bazlinton, aged 14, who along with her friend Charlotte Thompson, 13, was killed when struck by a train at Elsenham level crossing in 2005. "I just find it incredible that the two most important documents in the case were lost," says Bazlinton. "I don't believe it."

Costs and value
Tina Hughes, Olivia's mother, also recalls how John Armitt, then Network Rail chief executive, had told her the company - owner Britain's railways - needed to "consider the costs of safety against the value of human life".
Hughes now works with Network Rail to improve safety at level crossings. "Network Rail has made significant changes but they've only scratched the surface on what needs to be done," says Hughes.
MPs on the House of Commons Transport Select Committee are due to continue their  inquiry into level crossing safety on November 4 - when Network Rail are due to give evidence.

© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, October 2013

Elsenham: Olivia Bazlinton, Charlotte Thompson

People who lost loved ones at rail level crossings get an opportunity to speak to politicians. Will an inquiry by MPs improve rail safety?

Elsenham: a matter of accountability

© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, October 2013

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Andalucia Star anniversary: Jill McNichol-Harrell's annual tribute to the crew including Mrs. L.A. Green, William Wheeler

Today - 6 October, 2013 - I received the following message - from Jill McNichol-Harrell. Jill delivers this message faithfully at this time every year, writes Paul Coleman.

'Please join me in a toast to Captain Hall, Mr. Wheeler, Mrs. Green 
and the brave crew of the Andalucia Star and all who sailed in that ill fated ship. 
Much gratitude to all the crews of the many other merchant ships 
who kept the life lines open during World War 2.'
Jill McNichol-Harrell.

The reason why Jill sends this message every year on this day becomes clear if you read the post below - first published on 7 October 2010.  It's seventy-one years ago to this very day - 6th October - that the Blue Star Line cargo ship, the Andalucia Star, was torpedoed and sunk during the Second World War - a catastrophe that Jill and most - but not all - other crew and passengers survived, chiefly due to the bravery and professionalism of the ship's crew.

(First published 7 October 2010) Out of the blue I recently learnt that another little girl - three-year-old Gillian Ash - was rescued from the sea after the Blue Star Line cargo ship, the Andalucia Star, was torpedoed and sunk on 6th October 1942 during the Second World War.
  Gillian Ash fell from the same tipped lifeboat as Jill McNichol, the five-year-old girl whose rescue I've detailed in previous postingsGillian's mother plucked her from the cold choppy Atlantic and pulled her up into a lifeboat. 
  I received details about Gillian Ash from Mary Godward, whose uncle George Godward was on his way to England as a volunteer on board the Andalucia Star when it was torpedoed three times by a German U-Boat submarine - U-107 - and sunk with three lives lost. 

Mrs L.A Green
I'll highlight more details about Gillian Ash's rescue story in future postings. But for the moment, I just want to say how pleasing it was to receive the following apt and timely note today from Jill McNichol.
  Jill kindly wrote:
"My father always phoned me and we would drink a toast today to the Andalucia Star, her brave crew and all who sailed on her during her many voyages. 
Join me in a glass of anything you like. 
All the best and cheers, Jill."
  Sixty-eight years ago, Jill was crossing the Atlantic on the Andalucia Star with her father, S.G. Bicheno. According to one account, Mrs L.A. Green, “an elderly stewardess”, switched on a red light on Jill's lifejacket before lifting the little girl into a lifeboat with other women and children

William Wheeler
Most of the lifeboats had already been safely lowered but, as another survivor Douglas Gibson later recalled, one of the lowering lifeboats went down bow first, throwing many of its occupants, including Jill (and also Gillian) it seems, into the sea. "The bar steward and an elderly stewardess were crushed between the ship and the lifeboat and killed,” said Gibson. 
  William Wheeler, the Andalucia’s lamp trimmer (the ship's lighting technician), heard little Jill’s cry for help and then spotted her red light switched on earlier by Mrs Green. Wheeler immediately dived into the water, swam through wreckage for a distance of 600 yards to Jill and supported her for 30 minutes before helping Jill into the lifeboat. 
"Daddy was getting into a lifeboat when the third torpedo struck," says Jill. "He was very lucky not to have been killed on the spot."

Early October is a poignant moment for Jill and possibly other Andalucia Star survivors and their descendants dotted around the world. "Daddy, every year when he was alive, would phone me on the anniversary of the sinking and we would drink a toast to the ship and her brave crew," says Jill.
  So, earlier today, rummaging inside a kitchen cupboard, I found an old bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand and two ancient dusty cans of Fosters lager. I opted for the bottle of wine and pondered how a single event nearly 70 years ago continues to echo through the decades and connect with successive generations.
  And I raise my glass to my own grandfather, Leslie Coleman (1906-81), who sailed many times as a crew member on the Andalucia Star - and I'll join you, Jill, in the toast you and your father so thoughtfully invoked: 
"To the Andalucia Star, her brave crew and all who sailed on her during her many voyages...we remember and salute you."

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, October 2013.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Evaporation of the east End spirit: East One film screening at the Barbican

East End people "evaporated" by regeneration, says filmmaker

By Paul Coleman

"The film laments the loss of East End people who have been evaporated by regeneration," says filmmaker Phil Maxwell, a long-term east London resident and former elected local politician.
  But East One (UK 2013), co-produced by Maxwell and Hazuan Hashim, might be in danger - unwittingly perhaps - of becoming seen as a prematurely nostalgic obituary to the spirit of working class east Londoners, generations of whom came from all over Britain and the Jewish and Bengali diasporas, to make Aldgate, Spitalfields and Whitechapel their home. 
  East One sets out as an engaging slice of East End nostalgia, driven by a pleading piano score - and tries to skim over the relentless outcomes of property developers and the 'buy-to-let' marketeers pricing these working people out of their family homes and traditional neighbourhoods.

Nostalgia over politics
But the grim reaper of 'Regeneration-Gentrification-Displacement looms beneath the surface of every nostalgic East One interview with some colourful local Aldgate characters. Sandra Esquilant, landlady of the Golden Heart pub off Brick Lane, heavily sighs: "The changes to this area haven't been for the best." 
  Maxwell and Hashim spent a year on this non-commercial "labour of love" documentary. Maxwell, a former elected local councillor, concedes East One avoids the politics of 'displacement' - namely, why elected councillors largely acquiesce in the displacement of local working people. 
  That's understandable, up to a point, but the nostalgia road taken leads East One perilously close to a triumph of pessimism over the East End spirit of optimism. The film pulls back from this peril through giving considerable free rein to the fighting poetry of local resident and poet Bernard Kops.
Maxwell and Hashim dwell generously on Kops as he spiritedly recites his Whitechapel Library, Aldgate East inside one of London's oldest and dearest synagogues, a passage helping to dispel much of East One's malingering, pessimistic after-taste. 

Filmmakers Hazuan Hashim and Phil Maxwell spoke after East One (UK 2013) was screened at the Barbican as part of the Urban Wandering film season. 

Photo: © Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, 2013.

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, September 2013.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

The Last Flare of Summer: The Thames Estuary, Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex

A Final Summer Flare

By Paul Coleman

Mistily surreal.
Like teal blue silkened lava.
The Thames Estuary, determinedly unhurried, ebbs and flows at Westcliff-on-Sea.

And sun-baked, friendly people sizzle along this esplanade.
Paddle, promenade and soak up a final flare of summer balm.
Under a vast, wide blue Essex sky.
Before tomorrow's advancing Autumn shroud falls on the river
Concealing a vast blue Essex sky. 

© Words and Photos, Paul Coleman, London 2013

© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, September 2013

Monday, 2 September 2013

Birthday, World Premiere, Mnemonic Suite Op.21, David Aprahamian Liddle, St Michael's Cornhill, Jamaica Wine House, Pasqua Rosee

A Liddle Treat 

Today (Monday, 2 September) marks the thirtieth year that I have been 21-years-old, writes Paul Coleman.
As a birthday treat to myself, I padded along Cornhill to St Michael's Church in the heart of the City of London - the capital's financial district - to enjoy the world premiere of David Liddle's composition, the Mnemonic Suite Op.21. It's a soulful and imaginative piece of music for organ, performed for the first time ever by the virtuoso Liddle himself (above, blue shirt). 
   Liddle's Suite is based on the eight Gregorian Psalm Tones - and its varied textures and moods brushed and blustered the air amidst St Michael's aisles, pillars and pews.

Coffee scorned
To keep the 'firsts' mood going, I'm now happily reflecting on Liddle's music in the Jamaica Wine House, a favourite City bankers' 'watering hole' right next to the church in St Michael's Alley. 
  Shall I order a coffee in a pub? Why coffee? Well, during the Jamaica Wine House's original incarnation in 1652, Pasqua Rosee, a servant of a wealthy English trader in the Levant Mediterranean area, became the first person to sell coffee to Londoners.
 'Coffee, it'll never take off in London,' said the sceptics, pouring scorn on Rosee's hot, thick liquid. 

Allez Alley
Historical records fail to regale what happened to Rosee down St Michael's Alley. Although Rosee disappeared, the Jamaica Coffee House became one of London's earliest and most famous coffee emporiums. Coffee, aided and abetted by sugar, took over London.
  The Jamaica Coffee House became a renowned meeting place for people engaged in England's vast trade in African slaves, a vicious enterprise that engulfed Africa and Caribbean sugar plantation islands like Jamaica - and enriched many powerful men in the City of London. 
   No, no coffee. It'll remind me too much of the wretched aspects of the City of London's history.
Instead, I'll have a birthday beer, please - and raise my glass to Rosee, St Michael's and to the creative force that is David Liddle.

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, September 2013

© Words & Photos Paul Coleman 2013

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Joy Gardner, Deportation, 28th July 1983, Nellie Sterling

Twenty years ago – in the summer of 1993 – Joy Gardner, a 40-year-old black Jamaican mother, died after London police tried to deport her. Paul Coleman reports how a close friend of Gardner disputed police and media claims that Gardner ‘violently’ resisted arrest.*

Just how ‘violent’ could injured 
Joy Gardner have been?

Joy Gardner fell and was unable to walk just four days before police and immigration officers tried to deport her to Jamaica, writes Paul Coleman.
On Saturday, July 24th, 1993, Joy Gardner, 40, told her close friend Nellie Sterling that she had slipped, fallen down some stairs and badly twisted her ankle.
  This evidence was not presented to an Old Bailey jury that, following a four-week trial in 1995, cleared three police officers of Joy Gardner’s manslaughter.
 During the raid at Gardner's north London home on Wednesday 28th July, police officers wrapped thirteen feet of tape around Gardner in the presence of Graeme, her five-year-old son.
  Police said this was to stop Gardner resisting arrest but family and friends claim she suffocated. Gardner was later pronounced dead on 1 August 1993, having suffered brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen.

Nellie Sterling
Nellie Sterling, 61, had often looked after Joy Gardner’s son, Graeme. In a face-to-face recorded interview, Ms Sterling told this writer that on July 24th Gardner was baking cakes and cooking chicken at her flat in Hornsey – where the police raid would take place four days later.
  Sterling said Gardner planned to sell the cakes and chicken at a Stoke Newington street festival near to Ms Sterling’s home.
  Sterling added Gardner planned to travel from Hornsey to Stoke Newington where they would have shared a stall selling home-cooked food.

Slipped and twisted
Ms Sterling, a nurse, said: “Joy said she was going to bake some cake and do some chicken. But she rang me that Saturday morning to say she had been going downstairs, had slipped and twisted her ankle.
  “It was swollen. She said she couldn’t walk. She couldn’t come to Stoke Newington.
 “She had already baked the cakes. I said to her: ‘You should’ve phoned earlier. I could’ve helped you.
  ‘Alright,’ Joy said. ‘Cake go spoil.’
"So I said, ‘I’ll come over and eat some.’
"We treated it as a little joke.”

‘Paining me badly’
Sterling, who first met Joy Gardner in 1992 at a north London Pentecostal church, went to the street festival that afternoon without her friend.
  Sterling added: “At six-thirty that Saturday evening Joy rang me again to find out how I got on at the festival.
  “I said: ‘Alright. How’s the foot?’
“Joy said: ‘It’s paining me badly.’”

Last time
Sterling advised Gardner to go to the doctor on Monday morning. Joy said to her: ‘If I can walk.’
 Sterling replied: ‘Alright, I’ll see you one day in the week then.’
  “That was the last time I spoke to Joy,” recalled Sterling.

Life support
Four days later, on Wednesday, July 28th, Sterling received a phone call from a friend, who broke the news that Gardner was on a life support machine in hospital after an attempt earlier that morning by police officers and an immigration officer to deport her.
  “I switched on the news,” said Sterling. “I couldn’t believe it,” she recalled.

Sterling emphasised that Gardner had promised she would go to the doctors on Monday. However, Sterling did not speak to Gardner again and so does not know if she made a doctor’s appointment before the attempted deportation on Wednesday.
  The prosecution case of manslaughter at the Old Bailey against three police officers – PC Colin Leonard Whitby, Detective Sergeant Linda Evans and PC John Winter Burrell – was based on an investigation of Joy Gardner’s death by Essex police officers, conducted under the supervision of William McCall, a member of the Police Complaints Authority.
  Nellie Sterling was not interviewed by Essex Police during the course of their investigation. The results of the investigation were passed onto the Crown Prosecution Service. McCall has since completed his appointment at the PCA.
  Sterling said that Essex Police had rang her for information after a reporter from an evening newspaper had passed her numbers to the police. “I thought about talking to the police,” she recalled. “But in the end I just didn’t want to talk to them as I felt strongly that it was the police that had killed Joy.”

Sterling recalled that as it was school summer holidays she had arranged for her son, Mark, to stay with Joy Gardner and her son Graeme at Gardner’s Hornsey flat – so that the boys could spend time together. Graeme and Mark were then due to spend the following week at Ms Sterling’s home. “Mark was very upset when Joy died,” said Ms Sterling.
  “Joy loved Graeme very much,” recalled Sterling, a regular visitor to Gardner’s Hornsey flat. “Her flat was very neat and clean.
  “The only untidy place was Graeme’s bedroom where he kept all his toys. Joy spoilt Graeme. Some parents, especially from the Caribbean, like to give their children what they themselves never had. It’s understandable.
  “The way I look at it is that people should build a centre in Jamaica and name it after Joy. Joy’s name lives on.”

Note: Fears of unrest following Joy Gardner's death, see previous posting at:

After the trial, Joy Gardner’s mother, Myrna Simpson, said: “I heard in court that the police officers fell down on Joy. Joy was confused.  They said she was violent, superhuman, but she had no strength.”
Simpson spoke at a public meeting at Haringey Civic Centre.  

* The interview with Nellie Sterling was first published in the London-based weekly Caribbean Times newspaper on 1st July, 1995.

Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, July 2013

Joy Gardner, Death Twenty Years Ago, Deportation, Police, Immigration, Linda Evans, Colin Whitby, John Burrell, Nellie Sterling

Twenty years ago - on 28th July 1993  – Joy Gardner and her five-year-old son Graeme were startled by an early morning police raid on their north London home. Paul Coleman reports.

The ‘Smear Campaign’ 

against Joy Gardner

London's Metropolitan Police were reportedly on a state of alert following the death of Joy Gardner in the summer of 1993, writes Paul Coleman.
Senior police officers fretted that the death of a black Jamaican mother at the hands of police officers could see London experience riots of the kind that had struck Los Angeles in April 1992.*

Deportation squad police officers raided Joy Gardner’s Crouch End apartment early on the morning of 28th July, 1993. Immigration officers had ordered police to arrest and deport Gardner, aged 40, as they had deemed her to be an ‘illegal overstayer’.
  Information posted by immigration officers in Gardner’s case file had suggested she was determined and possibly violent.

Thirteen feet of tape
During the raid, police officers fixed a body belt around Gardner’s waist. Reports said thirteen feet of tape was wrapped around Gardner - in the presence of Graeme, her five-year-old son.
  Police said this was to stop Gardner resisting arrest but family and friends claim she suffocated. Gardner never recovered from a coma and died some days later from brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen.

'Smear campaign'
People protested against police and immigration officers on the streets of Crouch End and Hornsey. A heavily policed demonstration took place outside Hornsey Police Station. But the protest passed without incident – despite media hype about potential trouble.
  In the months after Gardner’s death, newspapers like the Daily Mail and Daily Express ran stories depicting Joy Gardner as a determined illegal immigrant with a violent temper. Journalists received information about the identity and whereabouts of Gardner’s former boyfriend. Stories quoted the boyfriend claiming Gardner had been violent towards him.
  Gardner's friends claimed this amounted to a concerted 'smear campaign' against her. They claimed immigration officers had wrongly informed deportation police officers that Gardner could be violent - and when Gardner died, they claimed police and immigration officers had encouraged journalists to write stories suggesting Gardner was a violent person.

Two years later, three police officers – Detective Sergeant Linda Janet Evans and Police Constables, Colin Leonard Whitby and John Winter Burrell - stood trial at the Old Bailey and were acquitted of the manslaughter of Joy Gardner. No police or immigration officers faced disciplinary action.


After the trial, during the summer of 1995, this writer met and interviewed Nellie Sterling, a close friend of Joy Gardner.
  Sterling countered claims that Gardner was a violent person. In fact, Sterling, said Gardner was unable to walk at the time of the raid – and could not have violently resisted her deportation.
This blog’s next posting publishes an account of that interview.

© Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, July 2013

The LA riots killed 53 people and injured over 2,000. They began after a trial jury acquitted four LA Police Department officers of a prolonged violent assault on motorist Rodney King, an African-American. 
 George Holliday videoed on a camcorder from a nearby apartment the police beating King. National TV aired Holliday’s film across the United States - many years before the advent of You Tube, Twitter and Facebook.