Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Moses Tagoe: a death in police custody (1967)

The recent strange death of Smiley Culture in a police raid continues to raise alarm. Last week there was a packed public meeting in Brixton, and the family-led Campaign for Justice for Smiley Culture has called a demonstration on Saturday, April 16th at 1:00pm from Wandsworth Rd in Stockwell (where David Emmanuel/Smiley Culture grew up) to Scotland Yard.

The campaign has already reawakened memories of many other deaths in police custody in the past.
Doing some unrelated research this week I came across the following South London case from 1967 - what is particularly shocking about this one is that as recently as the late 1960s, 'coloured people' getting 'over-excited' was accepted as a cause of death! The police are going have to try a bit harder in 2011 to provide a satisfactory explanation for what happened in Warlingham, Surrey, on the 15th March.

'A 22-year-old Nigerian student went berserk when a police officer approached him at night in St Thomas Street, Southwark. Fifty minutes later, the man died in Tower Bridge Police Station, the Southwark inquest was told.

The Southwark coroner, Mr A. Gordon Davies, was informed the student was arrested after striking the policeman, PC John Carr, with a heavy brief-case, in the face. Then the student, Moses Tagoe, of Dalyell Road, Brixton, ran away, but was chased - first by PC Carr and then PC Anthony Mercer. Finally Police Sergeant Henry Dowswell arrested Tagoe.

At the inquest Mr Davies told the jury: 'If you are satisfied that there was quite proper force used, and there was no undue violence on the part of the police, the only possible verdict would be Accidental Death. There is no evidence for any other verdict'.

The jury returning an accidental verdict, had been told by Professor Francis Camps that some coloured people suffered from a disease which could lead to a fatal attack when over-excited. Mr Davies said that because the dead man was coloured, the authorities had made a very thorough investigation to ensure that no charge of racial discrimination could be made.

Pointing out that no reason for the attack on the policeman was apparent, Mr Davies said of Tagoe: 'He may have been under some delusion - persecution complex, or paranoia does seem very possible'.

was said by the police to have been writhing on the floor of the police station charge-room, and to have been dead when a police surgeon was called to attend PC Carr'.

Source: South London Observer, 22 March 1967.

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