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

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