POLICE chiefs have justified pursuing Nicky Jacobs nearly 30 years after the Tottenham riots and pledged not to give up on bringing more people to justice for the barbaric mob attack on Pc Keith Blakelock, who was from Sunderland.
During the trial, Scotland Yard was heavily criticised by Jacobs’s lawyer for the length of time it took to bring charges, and the evidence of the so-called “kickers” of Pc Blakelock who received payments in the past for their co-operation with the investigation.
But Detective Superintendent John Sweeney, who has led the investigation for the past 14 years, said he had no regrets about the case and insisted: “No-one has been rewarded for this trial.”
Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said: “Regardless of the verdict, we never, ever close a case - we are still open to new information.”
At the time of the original inquiry in 1985, police had to rely on confessions and witnesses without the benefit of modern DNA and forensics - or CCTV which was used to track down rioters in Tottenham in 2011, the senior officers told reporters during a joint briefing.
During a second investigation in 1993, then director of public prosecutions Barbara Mills decided to treat people involved in the attack on Pc Blakelock who were not armed with machetes or knives as potential witnesses rather than suspects. The two groups came to be known as “kickers” and “stabbers”.
Mr Rowley said: “It would be nice to have alternatives, witnesses of perfect character, but unfortunately you do not tend to get them at riots - the lovely old lady with a perfect memory out walking her dog. We have had to work with what we have got which is an investigative challenge.”
The two “kickers” who gave evidence were paid expenses for things like housing and living costs under the witness protection programme but there were no rewards for giving evidence that could have undermined the trial, police said.
The men known as Rhodes Levin and John Brown received several thousand pounds in 1994 - but only after it seemed there was no prospect of a prosecution.
Mr Rowley said: “The decision was made at the time - people had put themselves at risk and were prepared to give evidence - it was felt to reward them at that point on the basis there was no foreseeable prosecution.
“The fact they feel strongly enough and wanted to give evidence still was their personal choice and was not linked to what they were paid at the time.”
A £100,000 reward promised by the News of the World also evaporated when the tabloid closed down in 2011, police said.
Mr Sweeney went on to praise his predecessor Commander Perry Nove for conducting his inquiry in the 1990s in an “open, honest and transparent” way, saying without his determination the case against Jacobs would never have been brought.
The officers said the subsequent cold case review and investigation took a long time because of the complexities of the case and the need to disclose evidence to ensure Jacobs got a fair trial.
Police had to re-examine 74,294 documents, 14,127 exhibits and 17,765 names before they could even begin a fresh investigation in 2003. The total cost is thought to run into the tens of millions of pounds.
As a result, 20 suspects were identified as being at the murder scene and police asked the Crown Prosecution Service in 2005 to consider charges against six, including Jacobs.
Mr Rowley said the decision to charge Jacobs in 2013 was vindicated by the fact the judge Mr Justice Nicol agreed after legal discussions that a jury should be allowed to decide on the evidence.
And the Old Bailey judge refused to throw out the case half way through the trial when Jacobs’s lawyers argued there was no case to answer.
Mr Sweeney also rejected the suggestion of continuing tensions in Tottenham over the murder investigation, saying the people and demographic had changed and the community had long since consigned the terrible events of October 6 1985 to history.