Remember Mark Duggan

CW: Police brutality, racism

The case of the shooting of Mark Duggan in 2011 by Metropolitan police officers shows how the actual institutions of the British state, the IPCC, the ‘legal’ inquest and the jury itself were complicit in the ensuing miscarriage of justice: given that the police evidence was contradictory, absurdly unrealistic and constantly changing as glaring inconsistencies became apparent. A very British whitewash. 

The recent protests sweeping the US over the brutal and sadistic murder of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis, brought to mind the shooting here in the U.K. of Mark Duggan by Metropolitan Police officers on 4th August 2011. 

Two nights after the killing, angry protests took place in Tottenham in North London and started to spread right across the country. Nor was this first incident of racially motivated police violence in the capital.

Mark was 29 years old. He was of mixed Irish and African-Caribbean descent.  He was alleged by police to have been a member of the Tottenham Man Dem gang, but Duggan’s family said the allegations against Mark were “disinformation”, and that he was “not a gang member and he had no criminal record”. The police also alleged after his death that he was a “drug dealer”, which amounted to nothing other than him being in possession of cannabis! 

Mark was shot twice on 4 August 2011 in Tottenham, north London, after 11 specialist firearms officers forced the minicab he was travelling in to stop.  The 29-year-old was fatally wounded by two police bullets after he got out of the car. The authorities at first said that he had been hit in an exchange of fire.  Their case changed quickly to one of “the suspicion that he had an illegal firearm”.  Yet no gun was found on him.  A handgun in a sock was “discovered” on grassland on the other side of some railings about four metres (20ft ) from his body. 

Yet at the subsequent inquest, which lasted 3 years, the cop who killed him, and whose identity was protected under the moniker V53, at first argued that he opened fire after Mark Duggan actually pointed a gun at him!  He added that Duggan was still holding a gun even AFTER he was shot, saying his own eyes were “glued to the gun.” Yet another officer, W42, also present at the incident stated at the inquest that as Mr Duggan fell backwards after being fatally hit, he could no longer see the gun.

Added to this nonsense, and realising that any claims that Mark had himself thrown the gun 20 feet away would completely undermine any pretext for shooting him, a risible ‘compromise lie’ was suggested by yet another officer at the inquest, and there to support the IPCC,  that he was told (who by?) that the cops themselves “had apparently thrown a firearm found in his possession over a fence so that it was out of reach and it would no longer pose a threat to them”. 

The core of the police “evidence” really only consisted of the belief based on “intelligence” that Mark had collected a gun from another man, Kevin Hutchinson-Foster, and the inquest was told that the aim of the operation was to take that gun off the streets.

Yet as soon as Mr Duggan was shot the gun had mysteriously disappeared. Hence officer W42 saying that even as he fell to the ground, and even as the officer “grabbed his arms”, the gun was nowhere to be seen.

The barrister for the Duggan family, Leslie Thomas, remarked that a member of the police team, V59, was seen on CCTV walking to where the gun was found.

“I’m going to suggest to you, V59, that you knew where the gun was before the officers had gone round, because you and all of your colleagues had planted it there,” he said.

Resorting to a smear campaign after the murder the police claimed that Mark Duggan was “an active member of one of the most serious criminal gangs in Europe” and was believed to be responsible for shooting a man in a nightclub.  During the inquest other smokescreen allegations were put forward, such as that just 2 months before, intelligence reports “suggested” Mark had drugs at his home, and that he was intent on “getting hold of a gun.” Some of these claims even drew sceptical responses from members of the police themselves: some officers accepted that much of the “intelligence” was no more than a “conversation overheard in a pub.”

Even the ‘Independent’ newspaper commented on publication of the inquest report in January 2014 on “the multiple – and often conflicting – accounts.” (Issue 9 January 2014).

The IPCC has said at the final summing up that it “had no evidence which sufficiently undermined the version of the incident provided by V53”  in his statement of evidence at the inquest. He had actually refused to be interviewed by the IPCC in their “investigation”, and had provided only a written statement. Further adding to this damning comment, their report admitted: “The lack of an open face-to-face dialogue limits the extent to which the IPCC can effectively probe and verify the detail of his account.” Yet in spite of all that the inquest ruled that  “the investigation has not obtained any reliable evidence to undermine V53’s account”.   

The inquest coroner told the jury the conviction of Hutchinson-Foster for supplying the gun was “not determinative” of Mark having a gun in the minicab, but it was “very strong evidence”, thus dismissing the testimony of the only independent witness, and not a police officer, ‘Witness B’.  Predictably, V53 and the other officers present were cleared of all wrongdoing. 

The inquest jury guided by the coroner decided by a majority of nine to one that Mark Duggan had thrown the gun away from his minicab before he faced police, contradicting the claims of the police version that the police officers themselves did that, and contradicting the statement by the actual cop who shot him, that his “eyes were glued” to Mark’s gun as he shot him.  They also concluded by a majority of eight to two that Duggan was lawfully killed.

The blatant falsehoods of the police stand in violent contrast to the revelations of ‘Witness B’ (a member of the public) who said that what Mark was holding was, in fact, a mobile phone and that he was clearly surrendering when he was shot. This was confirmed because a few seconds before the shooting a text sent to his brother by Mark read: “Watch out for a Green BMW van. It’s Trident (the gang crime unit), they just grabbed me.” 

This eyewitness was watching from the window of a flat opposite. The police later tried to say Witness B had initially stated Mark did have a gun, which the witness has vehemently denied ever saying.

“It was an execution,” he told a journalist. “His hands were practically up towards his face and he was not threatening. He did not look threatening – and the police officer just shot him. I thought they would just try to restrain him but, no, they just shot him.” He described Mark’s expression as he got out of the car as “baffled”.

Witness B was watching from the window of a building opposite in the company of another person and they recorded everything on two cameras. 

During and after the inquest the British trash press waged a campaign of slander against the young victim of this egregious murder. The Daily Express headline after the inquest report was released in 2014 was: “Mark Duggan was a gangster not an innocent choirboy”.

The wave of protests, including both black and white youths and older people (as in America this week) that swept the country at the time in 2011 showed what people felt about that.

Perhaps the most striking fact is the history of collusion with police assassins by the official organs of the state in this country in avoiding prosecutions, by whitewashing those responsible through cosmetic “investigations” or the blatant show trials of cosmetic inquests. Add to that the complicity of a majority on the inquest jury in ignoring the bizarrely contradictory statements of the police involved, and you have a sickening picture of English society. In spite of the IPCC apology to Mark’s family for the “wrong shooting details” and the police later awarding damages to the family, the inquest findings leave a very nasty taste of “British justice”.  Even more so that the inquest verdict of lawful killing was later upheld by 3 High Court judges following an appeal by Mr Duggan’s mother, Pamela Duggan (on 14 October, 2014).

The Metropolitan Police finally agreed to pay damages as a confidential settlement to the Duggan family in October 2019. Like all such settlements where the implications of responsibility are implicit but denied, the undisclosed amount of cash was paid “without acceptance of liability on the part of the MPS or its officers”. One can only feel devastated for the sufferings of Mark’s mother, Pamela who brought the high court claim.

Looking at recent events in the USA people may forget that not only has the  same happened here, but with a significant degree of official collusion, no attempts at all being made to placate the anger of the people.  The death of Roger Sylvester in January 1999, also black, also asphyxiated like George Floyd, at the hands of the cops is yet another case. And it doesn’t stop there. Sylvester’s brother said at the time “There are a lot of young black males dying violent deaths at the hands of the police. Clearly race must play a part in that.”

Clearly it must. And it is not only men (Joy Gardner 1993, Cynthia Jarrett 1985). Remember them too and remember also that the biggest mass traders in the human misery of Black slavery were from here.

Patrick Carey

Photo: David Holt, CC BY-SA 2.0