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‘What have you done to my mum?’

EVIDENCE: Lee Lawrence

THE SON of Cherry Groce, the woman whose shooting by police sparked riots in Brixton in 1985, recalled the traumatic moments when an armed officer shot his mother at close range while he was just 11 years old.

Giving evidence on the first day of her inquest (June 30), Lee Lawrence recalled hearing two loud bangs which woke him as he slept with two of his younger siblings.

The first bang was the sound of a sledgehammer breaking the front door of the family home and the second was a gunshot fired by Inspector Douglas Lovelock as he entered the room shouting: “Where’s Michael Groce? Where’s Michael Groce?” The gunshot hit his mother as she went to investigate the noise.

Lawrence told the jury at Southwark Coroners Court: “I was screaming and shouting hysterically, saying ‘What have you done to my mum?’ I heard her say she could not feel her legs…and she was saying, ‘I think I am going to die.’
“[The officer] turned to me and pointed the gun towards me and told me to shut up.”

He said that the officer did not offer the mother-of-six any assistance and instead told her to ‘get up’. This was corroborated by a former officer who was present at the time. Lovelock, now 71, denied making the statement.

Officers from Brixton and Kennington police stations had planned the joint raid for Saturday, September 28, 1985, in the hope of finding Groce’s son, Michael, whom they believed was wanted by Hertfordshire Police for an armed robbery.

But the jury was told that at the time of the raid Michael, who was never charged, was no longer wanted.

DEFICIENCIES

It was one of many “serious deficiencies” of the raid, as outlined in a 357-page report by John Domaille, the assistant chief constable of West Yorkshire police who carried out an independent investigation directly after. It is the first time details of the report have been made public.


INJURED: Cherry Groce in her hospital bed

He found that officers proceeded with the operation in the hope of finding Michael without knowing who else lived at the house in Normandy Road, or the layout of the property. The court heard that he wasn’t even registered at the property.

Summing up Domaille’s conclusions, Dexter Dias QC, for the Groce family, said: “He reached the conclusion that the most prudent course of action in this case would have been for the operation not to have proceeded forthwith but instead for an intelligence-gathering exercise to take place and that to go ahead as planned with a surprise entry with such a lack of information about the layout of the premises and details of the occupants and bearing in mind that the light was on downstairs, he found, would create an adverse risk."

Domaille’s report – which the family did not know existed until last year – has been accepted in full by the Met Commissioner.

Giving evidence on the second day, Lovelock said he had not meant to shoot Groce, adding his finger “must have been quivering on the trigger” of his revolver.

Groce was left paralysed after the casing of one of the bullets got lodged near her spine.

She died in April 2011, aged 58. A postmortem found a “causal link” between the shooting and her premature death.

Dozens of civilians and 10 police officers were injured in the unrest on the streets of Brixton following the shooting.

Lovelock, the marksman who shot Groce, stood trial in 1987 on charges of inflicting unlawful and malicious grievous bodily harm, but was acquitted.

The week-long inquest continues.

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