Suresh Grover, manager of the Monitoring Group, the anti-racist pressure group based in Southall, which is representing the Reel family, gives his viewpoint on the police investigation into the death of Ricky Reel.
The Reel family face 1999 with their grief over the loss of Ricky compounded by the smokescreen of evasiveness that the Metropolitan Police continue to display. The failure of the Met to release the proper investigation report has demonstrated in crunch decisions that the police are not displaying a proper transparency and openness. The six-page summary report the Reel family received was incomplete, in many instances full of police jargon and just an internal analysis made by a senior police officer, not part of the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) investigation team.
The claim of the Reel family, that Ricky was murdered by racists, must be taken seriously by the Met and they must undertake immediately a new investigation that is thorough and competent. We have sent the six-page report back to the Met and appealed to the Home Secretary that he intervenes and releases the PCA report. We are pressing for a meeting with him where we can voice our complaints and urge for a case conference to be set up with the Met’s race and violence task force.
The Reel family has suffered deeply and has genuine reasons to feel that the police and the judiciary system have let them down. For example, the coroner should have set up a specific date for an inquest, which he failed to do. A future inquest must have a jury and be conducted in an open and accountable manner, with the statements of witnesses pre-released to the family’s solicitor.
We are facing a key time in Britain over the issues of racial violence and harassment. The Metropolitan Police, in its dealing over the Ricky Reel case, now have an ideal opportunity to prove that it is open to public scrutiny and committed to eradicating racism in our society.
Background to the death of Ricky Reel
On October 14, 1997, Lakhvinder “Ricky” Reel, aged 20, and his three Asian friends were racially abused and attacked in Kingston. That was the last time anyone saw Ricky. Seven days later, on October 21, his body was found in the River Thames, less than half a mile away from the location of the incident.
The racial incident was immediately reported to the police. No effective police action was taken to investigate the incident. Frustrated by the police, Ricky’s family organised search parties for him, appealed for and interviewed potential witnesses. The police have maintained that Ricky died instantly by slipping over the river edge accidentally, while attempting to urinate. They have refused to investigate other theories. This theory has now been demolished by the findings of an eminent independent pathologist hired by the family. His report written after conducting a second post-mortem and after visiting the site, raises serious concerns regarding police investigation by:
Indicating that Ricky fell into the water backwards,
Concluding that Ricky did not die instantly and that an attempt to swim could have been made,
Stating that there is no significance in some of the trouser fly-buttons found undone,
Remarking that a third party involvement in Ricky’s death cannot be excluded,
Insisting that other more convenient urinating sites could have been used by Ricky.
At a House of Commons press conference in February, 1998, Ricky’s family urged the Home Secretary, Mr.Jack Straw MP, to intervene by installing a new team of police officers to investigate Ricky’s death. They also complained to the Police Complaints Authority for the
“incompetent and insensitive”
way in which the Metropolitan Police dealt with his death. In October 1998, the Reel family appealed to Sir Paul Condon, the Metropolitan Police Chief, to make public the investigation report conducted by the PCA and the Surrey Police. Instead, the family was given a six-page summary of the PCA report which was inconclusive and vague.