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URGENT Policeman killed in London riot

October 7, 1985

LONDON (AP) _ More than 500 youths, most of them blacks and a few firing shotguns, battled police in fierce street fighting Sunday night in north London. Officials said one policeman was stabbed to death and more than 80 people were injured.

Scotland Yard said 40 policemen were among the wounded and that two policemen and three reporters were struck by shotgun pellets. It said one officer was seriously injured when he was hit by a a piece of concrete dropped from a balcony.

It was the first police fatality and the first gunfire reported in the riots that hit the south London district of Brixton last weekend and the industrial cities of Liverpool and Birmingham last month.

Clive Appleby, administrator of North Middlesex Hospital, said a policeman died shortly after being admitted with a stab wound in the neck.

Press Association, Britain’s domestic news agency, reported earlier that three policemen were shot during the fighting in Tottenham district, and quoted one officer as saying, ″They are now using shotguns.″

The trouble began a day after a black woman died while police were searching her home. Police said the woman apparently suffered a heart attack, but her family disputed that.

About 200 youths, most of whom were blacks and some wearing masks, hurled bottles and stones at the Tottenham police station Sunday afternoon, and then sat in the street. They blocked traffic for about an hour before dispersing, and no one was injured.

At about 7 p.m., gangs of black youths started throwing objects at patrolling officers, and riot police in helmets and carrying shields converged on the area, a racially mixed neighborhood with mostly low-income housing.

The violence escalated quickly, and reporters at the scene estimated more than 500 youths had taken to the streets.

Demonstrators overturned cars and set them on fire, and set ablaze at least one house, Scotland Yard reported. Authorities dispatched four fire engines, but police advised them not to go into the area.

Scotland Yard spokeswoman Gillian Humphrey said the situation was ″pretty volatile,″ but the rioting and looting appeared to be tapering off around midnight.

Police from all over London were sent into the area and came under repeated attack. Each time police charged the demonstrators showered them with bricks, stones and bottles, some containing burning gasoline.

Television coverage showed police in running battles with youths amid the flames and smoke of fires started by firebombs.

Police reinforcements were equipped with tear gas, but it was not used immediately.

On Saturday, Cynthia Jarrett, 49, collapsed while police were searching her house for stolen goods following the arrest of one of her sons, Floyd. He had been arrested in an investigation involving a stolen car.

A police statement said Mrs. Jarrett was very cooperative ″but towards the end of the search another of her sons arrived home and began strongly objecting to the police presence.″

″She collapsed and the officers were physically shoved out of the house,″ it said. ″Eventually they persuaded the occupants to let them back in and one of the officers trained in first aid administered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but without success.″

Mrs. Jarrett’s daughter, Patricia, 23, claimed a policemen pushed her mother and caused her to fall. ″My mother weighed 20-odd stone (280 pounds) and she lost her balance, stumbled and fell to the floor. She was gasping for breath,″ the daughter said.

The family called an ambulance, but less than 15 minutes later she was dead.

The independent Police Complaints Authority ordered an investigation of the death. Floyd Jarrett demanded a public inquiry.

Riots broke out in Brixton last weekend when police shot a black woman, Cherry Groce, 37, after entering her home in search of her son. Mrs. Groce was paralyzed from the waist down.

Police called the shooting ″a tragic accident.″

Update hourly