Tottenham riots: relatives of dead man say they didn't want violence

Police have been criticised for failing to communicate clearly with the family who say they feel isolated, unsupported and ignored

Mark Duggan had just turned four when the Broadwater Farm riots erupted on the streets of Tottenham 26 years ago. As he grew into adulthood on the estate with his mother and brothers the notoriety which had hung over the area since the 1980s was finally beginning to fade.

On Thursday evening, as Duggan was on his way home in a minicab, his death at the hands of armed police from the specialist firearms unit C019 lit the touchpaper for riots which many people had hoped never to witness again.

Conflicting reports of the shooting have emerged, but the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which quickly took over the investigation, has confirmed that a non-police issue handgun was recovered from the scene and a bullet was found lodged in a police officer's radio. Ballistics tests are ongoing to establish where the bullet was fired from.

Whatever happened in the intervening hours until Saturday night neither the IPCC nor the police apparently did enough to communicate clearly with the family of Duggan, who say they have been left feeling isolated, unsupported and ignored despite the loss of a father, fiance, brother and son.

Rumours have quickly filled the information vacuum, locally and on social networking sites – resulting in speculation that Duggan was pulled from the minicab, held down and killed. Scotland Yard sources say they cannot respond with any facts to dispute these rumours as the inquiry has been taken over by the IPCC – highlighting how the creaking mechanisms of both bureaucracies fail to respond efficiently and quickly in the aftermath of controversial police shootings.

Duggan's fiancee, Semone Wilson, told the Guardian the family had not wanted the kind of violence that was witnessed over the weekend. She was supported by Shaun Hall, Duggan's brother, who told Sky News: "I know people are frustrated and angry out there. We would say please try holding it down … don't let this bear on my brother's life. He was a good man."

Wilson and other family members had turned up at the police station in Tottenham at around 5pm on Saturday, with community leaders, to mount a vigil and pursue answers. Only hours earlier she had been with 13 other family members to identify Duggan's body and pay their respects; the delay of more than 36 hours between his death and their being allowed to see him has not been explained by the IPCC, despite questions from the Guardian.

"I haven't told my children that he is dead," Wilson said. "How can I tell them when I don't have any answers about how he died? We went to the police station for answers. Someone did come out but they said they had no answers to give us because it was out of their hands.

"When the trouble started at 8pm, that's when I left. I just remember hearing a lot of commotion."

Wilson met Duggan when she was 17, and the couple have three children. A fourth child, a daughter, was stillborn.

She has admitted Duggan was known to the police. "He had never been sent down for anything," she has said. "He has been on remand. I can't remember what for but that was about nine years ago. I believe if he had a firearm and he saw the police he would run rather than shoot. When he was remanded last time he said he hated jail and never wanted to go back there."

The police operation on Thursday evening was led by Trident, the Scotland Yard unit which deals with gun crime within the black community. Trident officers, who were planning to make an arrest, were supported by a team from C019 as a result of intelligence gathered before the operation.

As he was driven in a minicab Duggan spoke to his fiancee to say he was on his way home, asking if she would cook dinner. Fifteen minutes before he was killed, he texted her to say he was being followed by the "Feds." What happened next is the subject of the IPCC investigation. Its initial inquiries suggest there was an apparent exchange of gunfire, and two shots were fired by a firearms officer equipped with a Heckler & Koch MP5.

Stafford Scott, a community leader who was outside the police station, said: "We do not believe that Mark was bad enough or mad enough to come out of a car and want to shoot at armed police officers. Our information … is that the gun found there was found in a sock, meaning it wasn't prepared for action."

The parallels with 1985 and the Broadwater Farm riots were obvious, he claimed.

"In this community for these kids everything is the same as 85. How often they get stopped and searched has actually gone up. Unemployment for young people has gone down … Nothing has improved for the livelihoods of young black people."


Sandra Laville, crime correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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