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A crime of colour

VICTIMS: Lee Pomeroy and Jaden Moodie (Photo credit: British Transport Police)

A crime of colour

Dotun Adebayo discusses the murder of two victims and the different approaches taken by the police and the press

IT IS tragic. A 14-year-old boy is brutally murdered on the streets of London and, even though the police have not released a photograph or description, you just know it is a black boy.

There are always some clues as to the race of the victim, albeit mostly inconclusive. The fact that this child was stabbed may be a hint, but it is not definitive. After all, though teenage black boys are more likely to be stabbed on our streets, it is not unheard of that teenage white boys are stabbed to death, too.

It’s in the police statement that you’ll find a racial ‘nudge- nudge, wink-wink’ disclosure.

DISTRESS

And so it was when I reported last week on the murder of 14-year-old Jaden Moodie in east London. Firstly, my sincere condolences go out to his family. We can only imagine what they are going through now. The last thing I want is to cause them any distress. Unlike so much of the press coverage of this case, this is not about Jaden but about police protocol.

Police eventually confirmed his identity almost 24 hours after the boy was knocked off the moped he was riding by a car – from which emerged his murderers, who proceeded to stab him multiple times as he lay unconscious on the road.

Like I say, by then I had studied the clues and come to the conclusion that here was an incident that would rock our community to the core. Because things will never be the same again.

Our community, in which 14-year-olds were always treasured, no matter how outta order they got, has with this murder, gone forever. Now every parent of a 14-year-old black boy will reflect, every time their child steps out of the house, that there are people out there who are so heartless they are prepared to take the life of a child in the brutal and senseless way that Jaden lost his life
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And as details of this despicable crime emerge and vignettes in the life of the victim are made public, some will deflect consideration of the criminals and reassure themselves that it could never happen to their child, because their child would not be riding a moped underage, their child would not be excluded from school and, crucially, their child doesn’t live in ‘dem endz’.

Yeah, once upon a time, the endz was a big clue to the race of the victim. But now, white folks also live in traditionally black endz. And one or two of us live in lily-white hoodz. Stabbing number one is a case in point. It occurred just a few days earlier.

It is tragic. A man in his 50s is brutally murdered on a train in Surrey on his journey to London to spend some quality time with his son the day before his birthday. By the time a photograph of the victim is in the press, people had already drawn their conclusion from a combination of the biographical and geographical. I didn’t know for sure, but the likelihood was that the victim was a white man. Lee Pomeroy’s death is also shocking. I cannot say more because somebody has been charged with his murder. But in the day or two before that arrest, we got to learn that Lee Pomeroy was an ‘honourable’ man who had been stabbed after an altercation with a “black man”.

I do not for one second doubt how honourable he was and, like you, my sincere condolences go out to his family. But even if a photograph of the victim had never been released and no biographical information had been made public, I would have still concluded that Lee Pomeroy was a white man.

You see, there is one glaring statistic that seems to define street crime and particularly street murders, specifically stabbings. How can you tell whether a victim is black or white? Read the bottom of the police statement!

Within a short time of the murder of Lee Pomeroy, the police had issued a description of the man they were looking for. Around 48 hours later they had someone in custody. In the case of Jaden Moodie, the bottom of the police statement in connection with his murder concluded that no arrests had been made and that the police were appealing for information.

Time and time again, the murder of black boys on the streets of Britain are defined by lack of information and the absence of an arrest. At least in the short term. It is no longer surprising to the police that they have no leads to go on when a black boy is murdered. It may even be the expectation.

And though I know that the police are as keen to put the perpetrators of the stabbings of young black boys behind bars (cops have kids that they want to protect, too, and don’t want these murderers roaming our streets any more than the rest of us do) they have to be careful that they do not become complacent when it comes to expecting to not be able to make a swift arrest.

It’s not even like I care to know what race a murder victim is. The seedier sections of the press are more consumed by that than I am. The narrative they invariably compose of victim and perpetrator (when black) is something we’ve just got to live with. But crime investigators should be insulated from the colour of murder.

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