Following in his father’s footsteps, Lee Blakelock is now also a police officer, serving with Durham Constabulary, UK. He was eight years old when his father was killed.
Pc Blakelock and his colleague Pc Richard Coombes were attacked during the Broadwater Farm riots in Tottenham in 1985. Coombes was seriously injured but survived. They were trying to protect firefighters when violence spiralled on the estate, sparked by the death of Cynthia Jarrett, 49, who collapsed during a police raid on her home.
His widow, Elizabeth Johnson said: “I know it was the uniform that they were attacking that night, but there was a father and a husband inside that uniform and they killed him. He didn’t stand a chance. He was armed with just a small truncheon and a shield. He was a home beat officer, he wasn’t a riot officer. But he was called on to do a duty and he did it and he gave the ultimate sacrifice for doing that.”
Lee Blakelock said: “I think that’s the hardest thing to come to terms with, not just losing my dad but the way we lost him.”
Richard Coombes needs only to close his eyes. When he does, his face contorts. His hands, instinctively protective, are drawn to his face; to where a deeply ingrained, ragged scar runs from his right eye to his throat.
He squeezes his eyelids shut, his hands now hovering over his mouth. His shoulders hunch as he stuffs his fingertips into his mouth, gnawing at his nails. As he wrestles with the unremitting memories, he does not make a sound.
Mr Coombes is in another place. One shrouded in darkness and shadow. One in which he, holding only his police officer’s truncheon and a short shield, is surrounded by a baying mob brandishing knives, machetes, blow torches and petrol bombs. His attackers are faceless, he sees only a swirling mass of balaclava-clad heads, their slits revealing hate-filled eyes and snarling mouths yelling: “Kill the pigs, kill the pigs.”
Before him, curled on the ground and spurting blood, lies a fellow constable. The writhing body is surrounded by the mob, battering and kicking and stabbing: reducing him to bloodied pulp. He sees one man raise a machete. He runs forward . . .Mr Coombes’s eyes snap open. “It is vivid, unrelenting, always the same,” he says wearily. “Every single day, for nearly 20 years it has been there.”
Ten people have been arrested this year as part of the investigation into Pc Blakelock’s murder and have been released on bail. All of those held were in the north London area at the time of the Broadwater Farm riots in 1985.
Warning: this program contains disturbing and graphic images. Read more here.