Serial 502. Keith Blakelock
Constable Blakelock was assigned on the night to Serial 502, a Metropolitan police Unit which consisted of a sergeant and 10 constables from Hornsey and Wood Green Police stations. A ‘Shield Serial’ was a unit equipped with Police shields, NATO helmets and a personnel carrier, expecting trouble, the Metropolitan Police had increased the deployment of these patrols right across the capital. Serial 502 consisted three scots, three Londoners, which included a Jamaican and one each from Cumbria, Yorkshire, Gloucestershire, Sunderland and Merseyside.
At 9.30pm Sergeant David Pengelly led the unit into Broadwater Farm to protect some firemen, who had earlier been forced out of the estate’s Tangmere block, where a fire had been started in the Centra supermarket on the first floor
The firemen had made their way up an enclosed staircase with Serial 502 behind them. Dozens of rioters suddenly appeared at the top of the stairs, blowing whistles and throwing lots of bottles. Pengelly ordered the officers and firemen to retreat. They were forced to run backwards down the unlit and narrow staircase. They were fearful of tripping over the fire hoses, which had been flat when the first arrived but now were full of water. Police Constable Richard Coombes, armed with just a short truncheon, said the noise – ‘kill the pigs’ – was deafening, and he could hardly see through the scratched Perspex visor on the helmet he was wearing.
The Attack on Constable Keith Blakelock.
There were rioters at the bottom of the staircase too, these were wearing masks while some were wearing crash helmets, they were carting and array of weapons, including, knives of various types, baseball bats, large bricks and petrol bombs, Clearly this had been planned. As the firefighters and the police ran out of the stairwell towards a carpark and a patch of grass, one of the firemen, Trevor Stanford, saw that constable Blakelock had tripped, He said later, ‘he just stumbled and went down and the mob was on him. It was clearly ‘mob hysteria’ there were about 50 people on him.’ The rioters removed constable Blakelock’s protective helmet, which was never found.
Meanwhile another group surrounded Constable Coombes, who sustained a five-inch long cut to his face and broken the upper and lower jaws. In 2004 he said he was still suffering the effects of this attack which the police regarded was an attempt murder on him. He now suffered poor hearing and eyesight, epileptic fits and also a memory so poor that he was left unable to read a book or now drive. A third constable, Michael Shepherd had his protective helmet pierced by an iron spike. Several of the officers and firemen turned and ran back towards the crowd to try and save constables Blakelock and Coombes. Trevor Stratford told a reporter in 2010 that I remember running in with another fire officer to get dick Coombes. I literally slid into the group, like a rugby player charging into a ruck. We dragged him out, but he was in one hell of a state. After a short pause he then said,
“I then ran back towards Keith Blakelock, other police officers were already there. We were all being hit and beaten. But I managed to get hold of his collar and pull his head and shoulders out of the group. One of the other officers helped me to drag him out.”
Dave Pengelly, the sergeant, kept a rear guard barrier between us and the rioters, standing in the middle of it, I had my shield and a truncheon and trying to fend them off as best I could. This is an image I’ll never forget. He said,
“Between us all we managed to manhandle Keith out of there and to the roadway. He was already unconscious when I got to him on the ground. I started mouth to mouth and heart massage on him, but his injuries were just too horrific. He had a 6 inch knife embedded up to the handle in the back of his neck. We could see he had multiple stab wounds and some of his fingers were missing. I just kept working on him with another officer. I think we got some response, which was only limited.”
Constable Blakelock was rushed to hospital by ambulance to the North Middlesex Hospital but he died on the way. Sergeant Pengelly said in 2010 that, when the other officers got back to the safety of their van,
‘We just sat there, all of us numb with shock, and of course, life has never been the same since for any of us, it was terrible.’
Later the pathologist, David Bowen, said “on examining the body of Constable Blakelock found 54 holes in Constable Blakelock’s overalls and 40 cutting or stabbing injuries, eight of these to his head, which was caused by a machete, a sword or an axe-type instrument. A six-inch long knife was buried in his neck up to the hilt. His bodywas coveredin marks from having been kicked or stamped on. His hands and arms were severely cut and he had lost several fingers while trying to defend himself from the numerous blows that must have rained down on him. There were 14 stab wounds on his back, one to the back of his right thigh, six wounds to his face and his jawbone had been smashed by a blow that left a six-inch gash across the right side of his head.” Mr Bowen, continued, “That the force of this blow had been almost to sever his head.” This gave rise to a rumour that an attempt had been made to decapitate him. However photographs taken at the autopsy did not support this rumour.