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Voice 35 Years: Standing up for what we believe

FIGHT FOR TRUTH: The front page detailing the death of Colin Roach.

THE MYSTERIOUS death of 21-year old Colin Roach inside the foyer of Stoke Newington Police station, northeast London, on the night of January 12, 1983 was the cover story which dominated The Voice newspaper’s 20th edition with the blazing headline: ‘Doorstep death – Colin Roach tragedy sparks revolt – It was no suicide, claims mother’.

The Voice reported that Colin Roach was found shot dead inside the station and it was alleged that there were no witnesses on the scene when the death occurred. The story was also accompanied with a picture of Colin Roach’s mother and other members of the family outside the police station as The Voice was the first newspaper to talk to the family after the tragedy.

Because of the conflicting reports from the police around Colin’s death and the inconsistent answers to the queries raised by the family solicitor, The Voice had launched a campaign to get to the bottom of the mystery and backed the call from the Hackney Legal Defence Committee which had demanded a public enquiry into the young man’s death.

The story in The Voice, which started on page one and continued on page three, said Colin was driven in a car to Stoke Newington where he was going to see his elder brother Patrick and he was dropped off at the junction of Stoke Newington High Street which was about 50 yards from the police station. Three hours later the police contacted Colin’s father to inform him of his son’s death.

TRAGIC: Page seven looked at the death of Paul Worrell in custody

The police had reported that Colin had entered the building, but there were no witnesses or people who saw him come into the building. A policeman on duty was alleged to have heard a bang and found Roach lumped in a corner with a single barrel sawnoff shot gun beside him. The sergeant on duty said he was “99 per cent sure that it was suicide”.

However, Colin’s sister Pauline Roach told The Voice: “Colin has not seen a doctor for two years and no one had contacted the family doctor.

“My father has identified the body and found that Colin was shot in the back of the head.

“The police have treated us very harshly. They have no time for the family, but have found time to sit in front of the television cameras discussing Colin’s death.”

A peaceful demonstration was held by Colin Roach’s family and friends outside Stoke Newington police station in protest of his death and the lack of police co-operation and information. The demonstrators on hand held placards which read ‘Police murder cover-up, we demand the truth’ and ‘we demand a full enquiry into the death of Colin Roach’.


The Voice story ended by posing a number of questions some of which included: Why did the police press reports suggest that Colin could have been mentally ill? Where did Colin obtain the single barrel sawn-off shotgun which was used? Why was the entrance to Stoke Newington Police station sectioned off if there was only a small puddle of blood left after the incident?

On page two, the lead story focused on a new job centre for the unemployed which opened in temporary premises above the Hackney Baths in Lower Clapton Road to provide a wide-range of advice and information about benefits, education, retraining and will be able to represent claimants at appeals. The centre was set up through the efforts of Hackney Borough Council and the Hackney Trades Council.

The headline above the story read: ‘New centre for jobless’. Over on page five, the new Police and Criminal Evidence Bill which had come into force was the lead story under the headline: ‘What a liberty’. The Voice reported that an emergency conference had been called by the GLC Police Committee to examine the origins of the Bill, what it meant and where it was leading to. The conference was to be chaired by Paul Boateng and would have among its speakers, activist Darcus Howe, Paul Crane and Gareth Pearce.

CHANGE: Page two reported on a new centre for the jobless

The Voice story said few people realised that the Bill was a massive attack on civil liberties which would dramatically extend police powers on stop and search and permits them to set up random roadblocks for indefinite periods. It would also introduce new powers to search innocent people’s homes, the files of doctors, social workers and probation officers, while legal representation could be delayed by the police for as long as 48 hours after detention.

The article concluded that the new police powers would mean that black people would suffer even more indignities at the hands of the police, saying: “Our youth will become criminalised and oppression is a sure recipe for confrontation on the streets, a situation the police force no doubt would prefer to avoid.”

On page seven, The Voice reported on the picket outside Brixton Prison, south London, by the family and friends of Paul Worrell, to mark the anniversary of his death inside the jail and for which a coroner’s inquest into his alleged death by hanging a year earlier had returned an open verdict.

The Voice reported that the former amateur boxer was ‘found hanged’ in his cell on January 12, 1982 while in custody for medical reports after being charged with grievous bodily harm. The prison doctors initially reported that there was nothing mentally wrong with Paul as he showed no sign of mental disorder, but Brixton’s Senior Medical Officer told the Coroner’s inquest that Paul had suffered from schizophrenia and the prison doctors made little attempt to investigate his previous medical history. Before his death, Paul spent four months in prison, locked up alone in a cell for up to 23 hours a day.

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 Voice archive and publish a front cover from its first year of publication as we look back over 35 years.

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