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Voice 35 Years: Police - 'We did not say it was suicide'

QUESTIONS: The front page saw an exclusive, but inconclusive interview with police over Colin Roach’s death

FOUR WEEKS after the mysterious death of 21-year-old Colin Roach inside the foyer of the Stoke Newington police station on January 12, 1983, the Borough Commander Bill Taylor sat down for an exclusive interview with The Voice newspaper to answer some of the burning questions around the case which had drove a wedge between the black community and the police.

Making it the front page lead story in the 24th edition of newspaper on February 19th that year under the blazing headline ‘Colin: Police chief speaks out’, The Voice story began with the Borough Commander stating emphatically that the police never said that Colin’s death was suicide.

“Let me emphasise that because it is not our position to make decision of that kind – that’s a decision for the coroner,” Commander Taylor was quoted as saying.

“What we have said is that we are not looking for any second person in connection with the matter.

“We have never said it was suicide because that would be a decision that the coroner must reach.”

The Voice had been covering the story extensively since Colin was found with a fatal gunshot wound and a sawn off shotgun by his side inside the north-east London station. In this latest story which began on page one and continued onto page three, the
police commander also had to answer a number of questions which included a vote of no confidence in the Stoke Newington police by Hackney borough police Committee; the delay in setting a date for the public enquiry into Colin’s death; and the inhumane treatment of the Roach family by the police which included the searching of their house.

In the latter question, Commander Taylor clarified that the police accompanied Mr Roach back to his home in order that he could inform his wife about Colin’s death. Commander Taylor said: “With their consent a search of Colin’s room was made in order to
find out if there was anything there by way of medication, drugs, anything that would assist the coroner and that was the purpose of it.

“There were no direct witnesses in the sense that someone saw something happen, but of course there were a great number of witnesses about the background circumstances about what happened on that day.”

The Voice story was accompanied by pictures from the public demonstrations and marches organised by the Roach Family Support Committee, which attracted thousands of people who took to the streets of Hackney in the weeks after Colin’s death to
voice anger at the police.

Also featured on the front cover was a picture of AnneMarie Grey who had been announced as the new host of BBC Radio London’s breakfast time show Rush Hour, making her the first black breakfast presenter in broadcasting.

BIG STORY: Anne-Marie's aspirational story was on page seven

The story on page seven revealed that Jamaican-born Anne-Marie was discovered by the station’s programme editor John Murray after she was filling in on nightly programme Black Londoners while he was on holiday. Murray said: “She made such a
good impression on me, I felt she might be just the person to brighten up the breakfast time – she has natural talent.”

Reacting to her new role, Anne-Marie said: “I never dreamt that my short stint on radio would lead to this.

“I was flabbergasted when John made me the offer, I could only nod in agreement – no words could come out – I only hope that doesn’t happen when I’m on the air.”

Over on page two, the lead story headline was ‘Southwark forced to aid NF’ which reported that Southwark Council had reluctantly agreed to hire two halls for the National Front candidate who was sitting in the Bermondsey by-election, but had also written to the Home Secretary William Whitelaw demanding an urgent review of the conflicting laws about elections and race

The Voice story said the Council argued that while the Home Secretary had powers to ban a march in the interest of public order, the borough council could not ban the hiring of a hall to the National Front, which campaigned on a racial platform, on precisely
the same grounds.

Another story on the page carried the headline, ‘Black trainees not employed by the MSC’ which revealed that the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) was to press the government to amend the Race Relations Act 1976 so that black trainees on the Manpower Services Commission’s Youth Training Schemes were covered by the ACT.

UPROAR: National Front lead page two

This followed the judgement in a recent case where the Employment Appeals Tribunal found that a trainee on a Manpower sponsored course was not employed by the company concerned and therefore an industrial tribunal had no jurisdiction to hear a complaint of unlawful discrimination under the Race Relations Act 1976.

The CRE also urged the Manpower Services Commission to monitor the training scheme to ensure equal participation by black youngsters.

The Voice is celebrating its 35th birthday this year. Share your Voice memories, comments and birthday wishes on social media, using the following hash tag: #Voice35Years. Each week we will be digging into The Voice archive and publish a front cover from its first year of publication as we look back over 35 years.

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