Pc Blakelock’s unit came under ‘flamethrower attack,’ court told

Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Nicholas Jacobs (centre) at the Old Bailey in London where he is standing trial for the murder of Pc Keith Blakelock. Picture by Elizabeth Cook/PA Wire
Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Nicholas Jacobs (centre) at the Old Bailey in London where he is standing trial for the murder of Pc Keith Blakelock. Picture by Elizabeth Cook/PA Wire
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Pc Keith Blakelock’s unit came under attack with a “flame-type thrower” before he was hacked to death by a mob during the first Tottenham riots, a jury has heard.

The disturbances on the night of October 6 1985 saw a group of officers trying to protect firefighters under attack by a large group of youths on the Broadwater Farm estate.

The trial at the Old Bailey of Nicky Jacobs, 45, for the murder of Pc Blakelock heard that bricks, bottles and petrol bombs rained down on the policemen. Jacobs denies murder.

In a statement given two days after the riots and read out in court today by prosecutor Richard Whittam QC, one of the officers said he had seen “shiny knives” and a “flame-type thrower”.

Pc Alan Tappy explained that as the officers tried to escape, he became aware of a “bundle on the grass” whom the mob were “stabbing and clubbing”.

Explaining the aftermath, he said: “Keith was lying face-down and I thought he was dead. Pengelly (the unit’s sergeant) was at the front of us, kneeling down to his left.

“We grabbed hold of Keith’s shoulders and made an attempt to move him but couldn’t.

“I remember one side of his neck had a wound, a gaping wound.”

Pc Tappy realised that his colleague was still alive as the unit tried to drag him to safety.

The court also heard a statement from Pc Richard Coombes, who was beaten unconscious during the rioting.

Pc Coombes, who the jury has already heard was “lucky to be alive”, received facial injuries, cuts and missing teeth during the onslaught.

In his statement he said he had “no training or instruction” to use the riot gear he was issued with on the night of the riot.

“My feeling during this riot was that those doing the rioting attacked us with such ferocity and determination that I believe they wanted to do us serious harm,” he said in a statement given days after the riots.

“It made me fear for my life.

“I don’t remember any other action taken by the remainder of my serial.”

Giving evidence, one of the firefighters who came under attack said the noise made by the mob was “equivalent to someone scoring a goal at a football match”.

Assistant divisional officer Trevor Stratford told the jury that he was assisted by Pc Blakelock as they tried to make their escape.

As they came out of the building where firefighters had been tackling a blaze, they were blocked by protesters with their faces covered.

Mr Stratford said that one officer screamed for the fire brigade crew to “get the hell out of there” as between 50 and 80 rioters “charged around”.

Struck several times and forced to run, he turned turned and saw that Pc Blakelock had fallen to the ground.

He told the court he wanted to go back but then witnessed how the police officer was “enveloped” by a group of eight or nine rioters.

Later he saw a group of around 25 “pushing each other out of the way” to attack Pc Blakelock and “what appeared to be something like a sword”.

As police and firefighters tried to get the officer to safety, Mr Stratford realised that the policeman had a knife “embedded up to the handle underneath his ear”.

He tried to give him first aid, but said “it was like trying to do cardiac compression on a pillow, there was no bone structure there and so I shouted for an ambulance”.

The witness also said he stood by a statement made to police in 2007 in which he said he had seen “a baseball bat, a sword and scythe-like instrument”.

Cross-examining him, defence barrister Courtenay Griffiths QC asked why it had taken him 22 years to mention a scythe.

“It’s an omission on my part,” Mr Stratford replied.

Later Mr Griffiths asked: “Would you agree that your recollection would be better back then (in 1985) than it is 28 years later?”

“In part, yes,” Mr Stratford answered.

The case was adjourned to tomorrow at 10am.