Police play spin over Carnival

Hmmm… Blogging copper Chief Inspector Andy Bennett is meant to be taking a week off, but obviously the Criterion murder has been preying on the mind of the former Ashley Sector Inspector.

Bennett, who had a great hand in having the 2006 St. Paul’s Carnival cancelled, as well as being up to his neck in the Operation Atrium strategy, has filed a special, unscheduled blog about last weekend’s events… In which, um, he avoids all mention of the killing of Mohamoud Muse Hassan.

Instead he “really [wants] to tell you about my positive experiences at this years St Paul’s Carnival.”

On Carnival night, Saturday 15th of September 2007, I was given the role of Enforcement Officer to work with the noise team around the sound systems.

I was a volunteer as I believed my local knowledge would help broker resolutions in a sensible and proportionate way. I had great fun. It was an opportunity to visit some old acquaintances. The event was packed with thousands of people partying into the night.

There were only a few reported crimes and a couple of people arrested. Much less than the Rovers vs Leeds game the night before! By the witching hour of 1am all the sound systems had shut down making the staged closing of the event more natural and un-confrontational.

The people looked relaxed, the police officers looked relaxed and the event felt relaxed. I have nothing but praise for the organisers, the police, the community and the people who came. Thank you.

One hour and forty minutes after “the witching hour of 1am” police attended a 999 call at the Criterion in St. Paul’s where a man had been fatally stabbed.

So is it appropriate to play dumb and pretend this never happened? Does that help people in St. Paul’s? Is that really support for Carnival? Or is it a short-sighted mistake which will come back to bite Bennett and his fellow managers on the arse?

It reminds me somewhat of the state of ‘community policing’ that developed in St. Paul’s in the period from the murder of Bangy Berry at the beginning of 1996 through the late 90s into the early 2000s. Many local people were horrified at the foothold Jamaican Yardies were getting in the area, bringing more guns and crack into St. Paul’s. Residents’ groups and tenant associations repeatedly appealed to the police to do something, only to be repeatedly brushed off with the mantra, “There are no Jamaican Yardie gangs in St. Paul’s.”

Instead the local police chiefs refused to tackle the bandits treating our neighbourhood like their own private Wild West frontier town. Instead the police blackmailed local residents with a threat: St. Paul’s would not be policed like any other ward in Bristol. St. Paul’s residents would have to gather the evidence themselves and testify in court, at their own risk. Only then would the police do anything.

Except we know now that the police were long aware of the Jamaican Yardies. By 2003 A&S was admitting that it knew there were dangerous gangsters waging war on our streets, and was spinning its own, much-embellished narrative of a Chicago-style gang war between the Yardies and the Aggi Crew, not only to local hacks at the Post, but also to out-of-town crime reporters like Tony Thompson. Of course, the inconvenient truth of abandoning the locals in the late 90s was left out of the briefings. No mention was made of the police’s categorical denials that Yardies owned Tivoli Gardens and the Frontline before the ‘official’ timeline permitted.

The truth is messy. And seeking after the truth should not be about wish-fulfillment.

PS The Bristol Blogger’s article ‘Dead Strange’, about the police version of the Criterion murder so far, is well worth a read.

I would like to clarify what I see as the issue here: The A&S has said that the murder was not racially motivated, and that it was not connected to Carnival. This was made clear in the press release on Sunday 16th:

Detectives investigating the incident, which happened sometime after the St Paul’s Carnival had come to a close, said the motive of the attack was unclear and there are no indications it was racially motivated.

At this stage it is unknown what weapon was used during the incident.

Chief Inspector Cath Tarrant said: “A number of people were in the pub and saw the incident before leaving the premises. It is those people who we are keen to speak to as part of the investigation to identify the offender.

“The motive of the incident remains unclear but at this stage there is nothing to suggest it is connected to the St Paul’s Carnival which finished sometime before.

“The carnival was a huge success attended by well behaved people who enjoyed the atmosphere.”

This was – apparently – before any arrests had been made (the seventeen year-old girl and the first twenty-two year-old man were arrested on the Sunday, but this was not announced until the Monday… After the initial press release).

So the question is, how could the police categorically state, barely ten hours after attending the scene of Mohamoud Muse Hassan’s fatal stabbing, that there was no hint of a ‘racial’ motive, when it seems that at that stage they had no suspects, no murder weapon, and no clear idea of what had happened? And if that statement might reasonably seem premature, then surely the other statement might be considered premature also?

Of course, this is not to say that the killing was ‘Carnival-related’ – whatever that might mean. However, surely a detailed, competent murder investigation requires that all avenues of inquiry are studied before any are discounted?

Soft soap leaves much lather.

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One response to “Police play spin over Carnival

  1. Pingback: Criterion: The trial « Bristle’s Blog from the BunKRS

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