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The Voice at 35: Mother killed on Chalkhill Estate

URBAN AID: A public campaign from 15 different tenants’ groups forced Brent Council to actively pursue an improvement plan for the Chalkhill estate after a woman was killed

A MURDER in Brent on the notorious Chalkhill Estate, news that charges were dropped against one of the key people arrested during a street protest into the death of Colin Roach and a special report on the black nightlife in Paris, were the stories which featured on the front cover of The Voice on March 26, 1983, its 29th edition, 35 years ago.

Under the headline: ‘Murder in Brent – mother of three stabbed in Chalkhill’, The Voice lead story reported that Sharon Whittick was found stabbed to death in her home on the sprawling estate in Wembley. However, based on information they had, the police quickly apprehended and charged another woman, Donna Dywer, who also lived on the estate. The Voice article said the accused appeared at Hendon Magistrates’ Court and was remanded in custody for a further appearance.

Whittick’s killing on the estate came just months after the brutal murder of Asian girl Asceme Devsani who was also stabbed in a robbery.

It was incidents like these that had the 6,000 residents on the estate calling for demolition of the walk ways connecting the houses as they believed they attracted ‘hit and run’ criminals onto the estate.

The Voice reported that a public meeting by the 15 different tenants’ groups after Devsani’s murder had forced Brent Council to actively pursue an improvement policy for the estate, but one spokesman for the joint neighbourhood project said: “There are many problems on the estate.

“There are a high proportion of one-parent families and elderly people living here.

“But community spirit is strong and the residents are keen to show people that Chalkhill isn’t as bad as it is reputed to be. In a way, bad incidents like this help focus on Chalkhill which do need a lot of urban aid.”

The main picture on the front cover was a dramatic shot of James Roach, father of Colin Roach, being arrested by up to three police officers during a march calling for a public enquiry into Colin’s death.

But the supporting story was about the release of Roach family supporter Councillor Dennis Twomey after he was freed by a High Court judge.

He was arrested along with 24 others during the march and spent three nights in custody. Earlier at his court hearing Cllr Twomey had refused a bail condition not to take part in further demonstrations calling for a public inquiry into the death of Colin Roach.

Turning over to page two, the lead story headlined ‘Woman sacked in play-group row’ reported that Elsie Sinon, a black woman who had set up a child-care project in Paddington, was ousted from her job by a white assistant while she was on sick leave.

The Voice article said Ms Sinon had single-handedly set up the multi-racial project in 1978 without a grant and all the parents were pleased with Ms Sinon’s care. However, when she went on six weeks’ leave, the white assistant who she had left in charge took over the project and on her return was shocked to learn that she had been sacked and was said to be incapable of looking after children.

Ms Sinon took the case to the Commission for Racial Equality but allegations were made questioning her ability to care for the children. A steering committee was then formed and a letter was issued from her solicitor lobbying the community for support. The Voice article also said other black mothers with children at the centre had approached Ms Sinon to start up a new project.

The lead story on page three reported that 18-year-old Danny Speed, a sickle cell sufferer was hospitalised for a week after he was strip-searched by police in broad daylight and the headline on the page simply read: ‘Stripped’.

Danny told The Voice that he was walking along Railton Road in Brixton when a police van stopped and two officers got out and told him to empty his pockets. They then told him to take his shoes and socks off and one even told him to take his trousers down.

When he refused, one of the officers grabbed his trousers and pulled them off while the other policemen started laughing, leaving him humiliated.

Days later after his ordeal, Danny was in hospital on a saline drip and being given oxygen from a sickle cell attack brought on by exposure to the cold, which was induced by the police strip-search.

His family had planned to make a formal complaint against the police and was seeking The Voice’s help in getting witnesses to come forward.

‘Black Paris’ was the headline on page nine as The Voice writer, Gama Mutemeri, crossed the channel to observe the nightlife in one of Europe’s most stylish capitals. The article explored where the black people, mainly from French-speaking African and Caribbean countries, were living and the clubs they attended.

Of the clubs, he wrote: “Generally, the audiences are treated with far more respect than in black clubs in London.”

The Voice is celebrating its 35th birthday this year. Share your Voice memories, comments and birthday wishes on social media, using the hashtag #Voice35Years. Each week we will be digging into the archive to publish a front cover from 1983.

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