THE man wrongly convicted and later cleared of murdering police constable Keith Blakelock in a North London riot in 1985 has called for a public inquiry into the case in his first televised interview, screened last night.
Winston Silcott, now 44, was convicted in 1987, along with two others, of murdering PC Blakelock, 40, a father of three, after a jury found him guilty of hacking the officer to death with a machete at the height of the Broadwater Farm riots in Tottenham.
The disturbances left more than 200 police officers and civilians injured. The riots, in October 1985, were originally caused by the death of Cynthia Jarrett, 49, who collapsed and died of heart failure after four policemen burst into her home during a drugs raid on the estate.
Silcott, Mark Braithwaite and Engin Raghip had their convictions for the murder of PC Blakelock overturned in 1991, because of "unsafe" police evidence, but Silcott, who, at the time of the officer’s death, was on bail for another murder, that of Anthony Smith, a boxer, went on to serve 17 years in prison for that crime.
In the BBC2 documentary, Who Killed PC Blakelock?, Silcott, who did not give evidence during his own trial because he was in prison for the murder of Mr Smith, said that on the night of PC Blakelock’s death, he fell asleep in a friend’s flat instead of taking part in the march on Tottenham police station that led to the riots.
"My first knowledge of [sic] a police officer had died was when there was a cheering in the house I was in," he said. "That’s what woke me up, that it came on the news that a policeman had been killed. My belief was they were cheering out because they think the police had it coming for all the hassle and the harassment and brutality what went on before."
In his interview, Silcott said that he did not give evidence during the Blakelock murder trial because he feared the jury would be prejudiced against him if details of his existing conviction were released and that his criminal record would be used against him by the prosecution.
He said: "For me to go in the dock and say to the members of the jury and the judge and the whole courtroom that the evidence against me was fabricated, the police are telling lies and it’s all rubbish, obviously how the courts work they refer to your criminal convictions and they bring your criminal convictions out.
"So imagine the scenario if they brought my criminal convictions out, that I am already serving a life sentence to the jury, right, the jury would have no qualms [in thinking], ‘Well he is already in there’. That is obviously going to taint their mind straight away."
He added: "I think there should be a public inquiry from start to finish and look into every aspect throughout the whole thing."
Silcott was released from prison last October. Last autumn, it emerged that the Metropolitan Police were reinvestigating PC Blakelock’s death. The new inquiry was launched after a three-year review of the case identified "new lines of inquiry".
While in prison, Silcott accepted 50,000 compensation from the Metropolitan Police after his conviction for the murder was overturned.
Two officers involved in the original inquiry, Graham Melvin, a former detective chief superintendent, and ex-detective inspector Maxwell Dingle, were charged with fabricating evidence, but were eventually cleared in 1994.