On the afternoon of Thursday 22nd November 2001, 25-year old Ricky Bishop was driving through Brixton with a friend. The police stopped them on Dalyell Road (as part of ‘Operation Clean Sweep’) Ricky and his friend were taken to Brixton Police station. They supposedly volunteered to go along, though they were then handcuffed. There Ricky was attacked – the officers claiming that he had escaped his cuffs(?) – and was held down by cops, while he had a heart attack. He was still cuffed when he arrived in the Hospital.
It is alleged that while in detention, drugs were pushed into Ricky’s mouth and elaborate stories made up by the officers to justify the arrest and a violent assault of him.
Ricky’s mother was told by police that he was in King’s College Hospital, later that evening. She had to make her own way down to the hospital, and shortly afterwards she was told that her son had died.
None of the 8 cops present did anything to help, sending for a paramedic too late. None were suspended.
The 11 policemen involved in the killing of Ricky Bishop were PC Simon McDanial, PC Richard Atkins, PC Christopher Rees, PC Michael Lane, PC Daniel Wood, PC Richard Luke, PC Nicholas Wilson, PC Paul Gittins, PC Shane Molyneux, PC Christopher Davies, PC Mark Johnston. The family also ideintified & then Lambeth Borough Commander Brian Paddick as holding responsibility as being the man in charge.
There were numerous unanswered questions. If Ricky had offered to go to the police station voluntarily and was not arrested, why was he handcuffed?… Ricky had cuts around his mouth and wrists, and injuries to his legs. How did he get these injuries? Why was there no medical attention provided at the police station for his injuries? Why was Ricky searched in the interview room and not on his admission to the custody suite? Was Ricky handcuffed whilst on the way to the hospital? What time was Ricky admitted to the hospital? What was the reason for Ricky’s admission to hospital?
Ricky’s sister Rhonda said, “Two police officers held Ricky to the ground whilst he was having a heart attack, only then did they go and call for a paramedic.” The family have never had an explanation as to why it took several hours for police to notify them of Ricky’ arrest and admission to hospital, and had grave concerns that the police issued a misleading press release before informing the family of its contents.
At an inquest into Ricky’s death, the Coroner concluded that he had died from “misadventure,” a verdict which exonerated the police and angered his family and supporters. They believe that the inquest was flawed as vital evidence was withheld by the Metropolitan Police. The jury were only given a choice of three verdicts; death by misadventure, narrative, and an open verdict. The latter two are methods of arriving at a verdict without assigning blame to anyone.
None of the eight police officers involved in this death were suspended or prosecuted.
A small demonstration marched through the streets of the London suburb of Brixton on November 22 2003, to protest police racism and brutality. The demonstration took place on the second anniversary of the killing of Ricky Bishop, following the recent Inquest verdict.
“We are calling for the police officers that were involved to be charged,” organisers of the Brixton march said in the flyer publicising the action. “We are calling for an independent and external inquiry into Black deaths in custody.”
Protesters braved a pouring rain and marched through Brixton High Street to the location where Bishop had been stopped and arrested by the police on Nov. 22, 2001. Others joined the protest as campaigners drew bystanders to march towards the Brixton cop shop, where Bishop had died four hours after his arrest.
“We are here today to make everyone aware that we can fight for justice,” Doreen Bishop, Ricky Bishop’s mother, told protesters. “We need to build a movement to stop police brutality. If it takes the rest of my life that’s what I’ll do.”
Doreen Bishop, Ricky’s mother is still campaigning for a Public inquiry into his death 17 years later
Check out the campaign’s facebook page
An entry in the
2018 London Rebel History Calendar
Part of past tense’s series of articles on Brixton; before, during and after the riots of 1981.
Part 1: Changing, Always Changing: Brixton’s Early Days
2: In the Shadow of the SPG: Racism, Policing and Resistance in 1970s Brixton
3: The Brixton Black Women’s Group
4: Brixton’s first Squatters 1969
5: Squatting in Brixton: The Brixton Plan and the 1970s
6. Squatted streets in Brixton: Villa Road
7: Squatting in Brixton: The South London Gay Centre
8: We Want to Riot, Not to Work: The April 1981 Uprising
9: After the April Uprising: From Offence to Defence to…
10: More Brixton Riots, July 1981
11: You Can’t Fool the Youths: Paul Gilroy’s on the causes of the ’81 riots
12: The Impossible Class: An anarchist analysis of the causes of the riots
13: Impossible Classlessness: A response to ‘The Impossible Class’
14: Frontline: Evictions and resistance in Brixton, 1982
15: Squatting in Brixton: the eviction of Effra Parade
16: Brixton Through a Riot Shield: the 1985 Brixton Riot
17: Local Poll tax rioting in Brixton, March 1990
18: The October 1990 Poll Tax ‘riot’ outside Brixton Prison
19: The 121 Centre: A squatted centre 1973-1999
20: This is the Real Brixton Challenge: Brixton 1980s-present
21: Reclaim the Streets: Brixton Street Party 1998
22: A Nazi Nail Bomb in Brixton, 1999
23: Brixton police still killing people: The death of Ricky Bishop
24: Brixton, Riots, Memory and Distance 2006/2021
25: Gentrification in Brixton 2015