PC Blakelock murder trial: Firefighter relives bid to save officer’s life
17:26 05 March 2014
PA Wire/Press Association Images
The firefighter who tried to escape the Broadwater Farm riots with PC Keith Blakelock under a hail of missiles today relived the moment he tried in vain to save the beat bobby’s life after he was attacked by a screaming mob.
Trevor Stratford, then an assistant divisional officer, said he and PC Blakelock joined the back of the police unit as it retreated from a violent group down a stairwell, under a hail of missiles thrown from above during the riots of October 6, 1985.
The fireman and colleagues had been trying to tackle a supermarket blaze on the upper deck of the estate’s Tangmere block, but were forced back by rioters throwing petrol bombs, bottles and bricks.
But he saw that up to 80 “relatively young” rioters - some masked with scarves, one wearing a white crash helmet - were “charging around” in the car park below too.
When they reached the ground floor, a police officer at the foot of the stairs “basically told us to get the hell out of there”.
He said the noise made by the mob was “equivalent to someone scoring a goal at a football match”.
He made for the safety of Gloucester Road with PC Blakelock by his side, still under a hail of missiles.
“[PC Blakelock] was on my left-hand side, slightly behind me probably by no more than a foot. I was acutely aware of his presence.”
He added: “I ran on by about five or six yards and I turned and I was aware that PC Blakelock had fallen to the ground. My instinct was to turn back around... but Keith had already been enveloped by a group of people. [They were] striking him.”
Mr Stratford saw two other officers being attacked and made his way to Gloucester Road to raise the alarm before heading back into the fray, where police were dragging another unconscious officer, PC Richard Coombes, from his “half a dozen” attackers.
He ordered PC Coombes be driven straight to hospital in a fire engine as there were no ambulances on that side of the estate.
He said the initial group of eight or nine people around PC Blakelock “swelled” to 25-30 people “stabbing, kicking; they were pushing each other out of the way to get into the centre of the group”.
Asked if he could remember any weapons being used, he said he saw “what appeared to be something like a sword”.
In his written statement, a second fire officer at the scene said he saw people wielding “knives, machetes and blades on poles,” and one blade fixed at a right-angle to a pole “being repeatedly thrust up and down” towards a man on the ground.
As Sgt Pengelly and another officer had reached PC Blakelock first and managed to clear some of the mob away, Mr Stratford helped grab hold of his unconscious body and drag him to safety as bricks and other items rained down.
“I opened Keith’s tunic,” he said. “I was aware of multiple stab wounds, injuries to his hands, a severe wound to his neck and conscious of the knife that was embedded up to the handle in his neck.”
He checked for a pulse and tried to give the wounded man first aid, but said “it was like trying to do cardiac compression on a pillow, there was no bone structure there and so I shouted for an ambulance”.
A pulse returned and PC Blakelock began breathing again, but remained unconscious.
Earlier today the jury of seven men and five women heard written accounts of the bloody mayhem from other members of PC Blakelock’s unit.
PC Coombes, who the jury has already heard was “lucky to be alive”, received facial injuries, cuts and missing teeth during the onslaught.
PC Alan Tappy described “hand-to-hand fighting” over PC Blakelock’s body as police clashed with his attackers, and seeing a youth in his early 20s carrying a weed burner which he described as “a flame-type thrower”.
Another of PC Blakelock’s colleagues, PC Maxwell Roberts, said he had told the fatally wounded officer to “get up and run” before being hit himself by a 10ft-long metal pole brandished by a man wearing a white crash helmet.
PC Blakelock managed to stagger only a few steps before collapsing, and PC Roberts helped drag him to relative safety.
PC Blakelock’s face was covered in blood, he said, and he didn’t know who he was rescuing until “I could see his moustache through the blood” once they were out of danger.
After the attacks, some officers were so shocked they were sick, while another hyperventilated.
Jacobs, of Hackney, denies murdering PC Blakelock. The trial at the Old Bailey continues.