This blog is all that remains from the former website which was closed after 8 years of providing a 'wiki' of urban street gangs in London.

An unfinished history of modern urban street gangs in London has been used to replace some of the content of the original site, beginning here

Saturday, 5 October 1985

Part Two: The Farm

London Street Gangs: A modern history 

Click Here for Part One: Young Raiders Posse

Part Two: The Farm

The Broadwater Farm estate, often referred to as the Farm, was completed in 1970. By 1979 an official government report said that the long term future of the estate looked bleak and at best the local authority should seek to make it tolerable for another decade. The first residents had began moving onto the Farm in 1969 and by the mid 1970s there were over 3,000 permanent residents. The estate is a 21-acre area of concrete medium and high rise blocks, named after Battle of Britain airfields – Northolt, Tangmere and Martlesham – connected by grey walkways, a style known by its protagonists as brutalism. Such estates were erected across London in post-war Britain as a means of housing a growing population and re-housing the existing residents of terraced streets in run-down areas which were marked for slum clearance. According to one resident, the estate was intolerable for several reasons, “there was nothing for young people and no social facilities; the design was alienating and there was no space to call your own except behind your own front door.”[i] Haringey council were accused of dumping ‘problem families’ onto the estate, which had come to have unemployment rates significantly above the national average. By 1985 70% of 16 to 35 year-olds from Broadwater Farm were unemployed, whilst research carried out by Middlesex Polytechnic identified resident concerns as being sexual assaults, heroin and drug dealing, robbery, burglary and racially motivated violence. It was a diverse community composed of West Indian, African, Irish, British, Indian and Turkish residents, and the youngest residents often had to battle with an over-diligent local police force. 

At 1pm on October 5, 1985, 23-year-old Floyd Jarrett was stopped in his car by police in Tottenham as he and his pregnant girlfriend were running a household errand. Having just returned from a youth exchange trip abroad, Jarrett’s tax disc was out of date and officers asked to see the vehicle documents. Jarrett allowed the police to search the vehicle following which an argument began at the scene; Jarrett was subsequently arrested for “assault” on a constable and handcuffed. He was taken to a local police station where officers assaulted him by kicking and punching his legs and torso. Refused to make a call, and with no formal charges made, Floyd Jarrett was detained for five hours, during which time he was interviewed by Detective Constable Randall. Following the interview Floyd was handed back his personal property which had been surrendered on arrival, all except a key for his mothers address. Floyd insisted that he no longer lived at the address, however, with possession of the key officers made their way to the home of Mrs Cynthia Jarrett. Arriving at 5pm, Floyds sister Patricia was watching television and upon hearing a noise in the hallway she ventured downstairs and into the hallway to see what it was. At the bottom of the stairs Patricia was greeted by four uniformed officers, and one plain clothes policeman, who had let themselves into the property. They claimed to be in possession of a warrant and that they had come to search the address as a result of Floyd’s arrest. Asked how they gained entry officers told Mrs Jarrett that the front door was open. The search revealed nothing and so DC Randall, who had interviewed Floyd, began questioning Patricia. Meanwhile, Cynthia Jarrett in another room came to be slumped on the floor, alleged to have been pushed over by another officer. Her two-year-old son was crying beside her. Whilst Patricia scurried around to find her mother’s blood pressure tablets, police carried on searching and taking serial numbers from the TV set and video, ignoring the requests for help[ii][iii]

It is claimed that police refused to offer any assistance, but a patrol car did arrive on scene later to attempt first aid. An ambulance arrived 45 minutes after it had first been called, but it was too late and sadly Mrs Cynthia Jarrett was pronounced dead on arrival at North Middlesex Hospital in north London. Floyd who was still at the police station was charged with assault just over an hour later and told as an aside that his mother was dead[iv]. The reasons for the police raid remain unclear. The facts were that the key for the property had been obtained without consent. Floyd Jarrett did not live with his mother, he was not charged with a property offence but rather one arising from resisting an arrest. The raid on a house which Floyd Jarrett did not live in, for purposes which could bear no conceivable relationship to the grounds on which he was initially stopped, can only be understood as part of a fishing expedition undertaken by police in the hope that something might turn up. Despite extensive searches by six officers with ten further officers held in reserve – by an ‘underresourced’ Metropolitan Police – no stolen property was found in the home of Cynthia Jarrett. 

Floyd Jarrett was a leading member of the Broadwater Farm youth association. The death of Cynthia Jarrett on Saturday October 5, 1985, was followed by community protests, including a meeting at the Broadwater Farm Youth Centre on the Sunday evening. That evening rioting occurred on the estate. It may have been triggered by police attempts to seal off Broadwater Farm, equally it could have followed an encounter between local youths and a patrolling police vehicle which was attacked. By the end of the evening between 800 and 1,300 hundred officers descended upon the Farm. Some people contend that the riots were a direct consequence upon the belief that officers from the Metropolitan Police were surrounding the area, whilst the universal agreement is that police were the virtual exclusive target for rioters. By 9:30pm a full scale riot was in progress, during which an unprecedented level of violence was directed at police officers with a total of 250 constables sustaining injuries. Police Constable Blakelock belonged to police serial 502 which was drawn from Hornsey and Wood Green station. They were ordered to Tangmere House just before 10pm where a supermarket fire was inferno. Attempts to enter and douse the fire were thwarted by youths pelting firemen with debris. The objective of serial 502 was to protect the firemen. As serial 502 moved into position they were surrounded by a group of youths. Bricks, stones, cans, bottles and other missiles were thrown. Some youths were also armed with weapons, including knives and a machete. The police officers began to retreat as they came under attack by the youths. PC Blakelock was one of the last officers to start running. Upon reaching a grass verge by the pathway leading to Gloucester Road, it appeared as though he slipped and fell. He was pounced on by a large mob who began to hit, punch and kick PC Blakelock. Officers attempted to get to their colleague but it was too late. PC Blakelock was cut, slashed and stabbed 40 times sustaining eight lacerations to his head. He had a large gaping wound along the right side of his head, caused by a blow or blows from a machete or axe-like weapon which had fractured and splintered the outer table of the lower jaw and penetrated the entire thickness of the jawbone as if to sever his head[v]. Whilst there were numerous participants in the attack, one man in particular was demonised disproportionately for his alleged role. 

Winston Silcott was born in east London in 1959, his parents had moved to London from the Caribbean isle of Montserrat in 1957. Winston Silcott, his younger brother and his parents Bill and Mary moved to Tottenham in 1964. Both his parents took up hard working manual positions, Bill as a labourer and Mary as a factory worker. Winston was an avid primary school pupil although upon moving into Secondary education his academic record began to submerge, a childhood friend attributed this to racist treatment from their teachers. Their school experience included teachers yelling at them that they should go back to their own country. Winston’s parents had hoped he would try for a career in medicine. Up until the age of 15 he had gone to Sunday school and he was also in the Boys’ Brigade. After leaving school he began an apprenticeship at a cabinet making firm. One morning, when he was cycling to work, the police stopped and searched Winston. Nothing was found but he was charged £15 for having faulty brakes, it was his first conviction. His mother said that after that day “for every little thing they pick him a cat playing with a mouse, they keep arresting him, then they let him go.”[vi]

After 15 months Winston’s apprenticeship ended when he was falsely accused of theft in the staff canteen. He and his friends with little else to do and without legitimate means of making money began to participate in crime, mainly burglary. In December 1977, Winston, who was sometimes called Sticks, and 15 others were charged with nine counts of burglary and theft at Snaresbrook Crown Court, they were sent to borstal. Winston’s attitude made him unpopular, particularly with police, according to his brother George. “He was never the kind of person who would take any nonsense from anyone...a lot of people thought he was older than his age because of the way he spoke. If he saw someone being arrested he would always speak up and have his say.”[vii] Following an argument at a nightclub in 1979 Winston was attacked with a broken glass, in self defence he jabbed at his attacker with a chair leg. He received six months in jail for malicious wounding as a result of the incident. Just a few weeks following his release Winston was attacked again, this time at a party by the jealous boyfriend of a girl he had been talking to. Winston and his attacker were both armed with knives, both men sustained cuts. That same evening musician Lennie Mackintosh was found stabbed to death outside a party. Winston Silcott was charged with murder but after a year on remand in Brixton Prison, and two trials whereby testimonies were changed by witnesses, he was acquitted. It was inevitable that his run-ins with the police to this point would see that he became someone they’d likely keep an eye on. Winston and a friend of his began their own sound system in 1980, something he was very ambitious about. Another of his friends ‘DJ Jazzie B’ from Hornsey ran a local sound system called Jah Rico which changed to Soul II Soul in 1982, before becoming the group Soul II Soul which had a UK and US top hit with Back to Life (However Do You Want Me) in the late 1980’s. 

In 1982 Winston Silcott opened a greengrocers shop on the Broadwater Farm estate from which the police were convinced had been obtained through his involvement in crime. How else could someone recently released from prison afford to own and run a business. Dolly Kiffin, a Jamaican born dressmaker, was a founder of the Broadwater Farm Youth Association. Following a meeting with Haringey council and the Cooperative Development Unit she gained agreement for training youths[viii] to set up their own businesses. Funds were sought from the Greater London Enterprise Broad to begin initiatives and seven cooperatives were established in Tottenham: the laundry, the painting and decorating shop (both on the Farm), and a restaurant. Of a small sum leftover £300 was given to two youths to set up and fruit and vegetable shop on the Farm. Winston Silcott’s greengrocer was one of the cooperatives. A member of the Broadwater Farm Youth Association recalled that “we would never have given him that job if we had thought he was the kind to run away with the money or refuse to give it to us...he could be strong yes, and if you came to him for trouble, well...But he wasn't some heartless thug who went around hurting people. He was always willing to defend people. That was how he ended up involved in the Tony Smith thing.”[ix] In 1984 a row began among a group of youths outside Winston’s shop which he broke up. One of those involved was the leader of a group known as the ‘Yankee Posse’, a boxer called Anthony Smith. The Yankee Posse, as they were reportedly known, strutted throughout the Farm, robbing local youths and showing off gun butts in their belts. Collectively they’d threatened to ‘take him Silcott out’. 

In December 1984 Winston was pursued by Anthony Smith, with two of his associates, armed with knives at a party. To even up his chances Winston Silcott borrowed a knife and during a physical altercation he stabbed Smith twice. Winston had also been slashed with a knife, sustaining superficial wounds and later scars, however, Anthony Smith died a week later. He challenged a Home Office refusal to allow an appeal on the grounds of self-defence. Before this case was substantiated the Broadwater Farm riots of October 1985 had taken place, during which time Silcott was still on bail. A friend said that “It was odds to sods they were going to arrest Winston for Blakelock...They arrested him for so many other things and each time he had made them look, well, stupid when they had to let him go”. After two months of evidence and three days’ deliberation, three men were pronounced guilty of PC Blakelock’s murder in March 1987. They became known as the Tottenham Three and they included Winston Silcott who was told that he must serve at least 30 years. In addition to the guilty charge for PC Blakelock’s murder, Winston Silcott had been recommended to serve 12 years for the murder of Anthony Smith from the Yankee Posse. His lawyers submitted a petition to then Home Secretary, Michael Howard, arguing that his claim of self-defence be referred to the Court of Appeal. The appeal contained details of the threats made toward Winston Silcott from Anthony Smith in the weeks before the incident. Smith had threatened to kill Winston Silcott for defending a friend who’d fallen foul of the Yankee Posse. Furthermore, there were statements from witnesses at the party who said Smith drew his knife first and attacked Winston without provocation. There was also a crucial testimony from a police officer, Detective Sergeant Douglas Hill, which said the doorman told him, “Between you and me, the dead guy caused it all. He came in with a knife and cut Sticks (Silcott) and Sticks defended himself. Smith brought it all on himself.”[x] This evidence was not disclosed to the Crown when Silcott first stood trial. Michael Howard refused the petition. 

In the week following PC Blakelock’s death Winston Silcott came face to face with Detective Chief Superintendent Graham Melvin in an interview at Paddington Green police station, he was to be questioned about the Blakelock murder. DCS Melvin kept Winston Silcott in custody for 22 hours; he was denied legal advice during this period. DCS Melvin conducted the interrogation with Detective Inspector Maxwell Dingle who sat behind the desk recording questions and answers. In accordance with the provisions of the new Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE 1984), DI Dingle recorded everything said contemporaneously, along with ‘stage directions’ describing Silcott’s actions[xi]. Later at the trial in 1987, Silcott’s plight would be dependent on the comments which were recorded from that interrogation which DCS Melvin claimed he made in reply. Barbara Mills QC, Silcott’s defence counsel, cross-examined DCS Melvin who admitted that despite 1,000 police photographs being taken during the riots, none depicted Winston Silcott. There were no witnesses to attest his involvement, no forensic evidence, and his shoes did not match footprints found at the scene of the attack. The accuracy in the recording of his interview was integral in the jury establishing a verdict. Mr Judge Hodgson told the jury it was their job to decide whether or not the interview record “amounts to full, reliable and truthful confession to murder...if you are not sure, you must find him not guilty”. The Tottenham Three were found guilty in March 1987. An appeal was made and heard by the Court of Appeal five years after Winston Silcott’s conviction for the murder of PC Blackelock. According to the official transcripts, R v Ragship; R v Silcott; R v Braithwaite, from 5 December, 1991, the papers produced from the interview (7:11pm to 8pm, 13th October 1985), recorded the exchanges between Winston Silcott and interviewing officers as follows: 

Interview Page 3 
"Q. What about the other photograph? 
A. You tell me. You know it all. If that's all you've got, you've got nothing man. You've made a mistake, that's not me and you're trying to say it's me. That's stupid man. 
Q. There were a large number of photographs taken that night which will give an accurate picture of who was involved in the violence. 
A. Look if you have a photograph show me. If not just take me downstairs and charge me. . . . 

Interview Page 4 
Q. I believe that you were with ML, NJ and others standing over Police Constable Blakelock when he was on the ground. You had either a machete or something like a sword with which you struck the officer. 
A. Who told you that? 
Q. I am not prepared to tell you who has described your part in the murder of the officer, suffice to say that I have been told that you played an active part in murdering him. 
A. They're only kids. No one's going to believe them. You say they say that. How do I know. I don't go with kids. 
Q. What makes you think that the people I am referring to who have witnessed your part in the murder are young people? 
A. Pause. You've only had kids in so far haven't you? 

Interview Page 5 
Q. If only one person had told me of your part in this crime I would not be so confident in my belief that you were the ringleader that night. When there is more than one person saying the same thing the facts become clear." 
At this point Silcott looked out of the window. He stood up, moved to the window and again looked out. He returned to his chair and sat down saying: "You cunts, you cunts". He leaned back in his chair with tears in his eyes. He raised his arms above his head and said: "Jesus Jesus". 

The questioning continued: 
Q. Did you murder Police Constable Blakelock? 
A. You ain't got enough evidence. Those kids will never go to court. You wait and see. Nobody else will talk to you. You can't keep me away from them. . . . 
Q. What do you mean by that? 
A. I ain't saying no more and you've got a big surprise coming. You will probably be out of a job. 
Q. Are you telling me that any witness is in danger from you? 

Interview Page 6 
A. Just take me down and charge me. I ain't saying no more. I ain't signing anything. You ain't got no evidence. 
Q. Apart from the murder it is important to recover the firearms and knives that were used that night. . . . 
A. You're too slow man. They have gone. 
Q. Mr Silcott in order to save further life it is essential we find those weapons. Can you help me? 
A. [Silcott laughed and said], No fuck you. You find them. 
Q. Mr Silcott I firmly believe that you were the ringleader in the attack upon the officer. You had a weapon. You used it on the officer and you caused other people to stab and cut that officer. 
A. They won't give evidence against me." 

Results of an Esda (Electrostatic Deposition Analysis) on the original interview notes, described by top forensic scientists as absolutely clear-cut, suggested that vital sections of this text were interpolated after the interrogation. The section of notes which the Crown based its entire prosecution case was later deemed questionable. Furthermore, Winston Silcott had not signed the notes. The Esda analysis had disproved DCS Melvin’s claims from the 1987 trial, that notes of a crucial interview conducted with Winston Silcott, one of the accused, had been taken contemporaneously. Furthermore, DCS Melvin’s dishonesty contaminated the case against the two other defendants. It was announced on December 14, 1991, that DCS Melvin, the officer who had led the inquiry into the killing of PC Keith Blakelock, would be prosecuted for perjury and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice[xii]. DI Dingle also faced charges of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. The murder convictions of the Tottenham Three were overturned. Unsurprisingly, some might say, DCS Melvin and DI Dingle were later acquitted of perjury and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, the prosecution for reasons unknown did not call upon Silcott as a witness[xiii]

A group known as the Broadwater Farm Posse is said to have begun in the late 1970s, it was during this time that Winston Silcott and 15 of his friends had collectively been arrested and charged for nine burglaries. Whilst there is nothing to say that this posse was a criminal gang, one of the founding members it is said was a man known as ‘Sticks’, a nickname of Winston Silcott, referring to the natty dress sense that made him look like a ‘sticks man’ or Spiv[xiv]. There is no official documented literature that supports the existence of such a collective; however, there are media references to Winston Silcott as a gang leader, albeit drawing on bias police accounts. Some coverage of the Anthony Smith murder also referred to the incident as being a dispute between rival gangs[xv][xvi]. The only published material which sheds light on what could be deemed early ‘gang activity’ on the Broadwater Farm Estate can be found in the book We Dared, written by Danny Woollard. Woollard was a notorious East End gangster who was jailed in 1998, then aged 54, for his involvement in a £7.2million security van robbery in the City of London, also known as the Snowhill Robbery. He contends that Sticks, was in fact Styx, "after the mythical river which flows by the gates of hell, because when you cross Stix (sic) you get hell" (Woollard 2003, p. 71). Woollard sheds light on an incident whereby he and his associates had attended Broadwater Farm to partake in a dog fighting event, after those from the Farm had made a challenge in the Sporting Dog Journal which began publishing in 1972, and the Pit Bull Gazette. The challenge was for £10,000 a side. A contract was agreed between Woollard and three men from Broadwater Farm who he refers to as ‘Outlaw’, ‘Ebony’ and ‘Cribb’, the latter being the dog owner. Cribb’s dog, Commander, was killed during the fight by Woollard’s dog, Sam. The scene became heated and Danny Woollard, and his friend Micky Gluckstead, another reputed East End villain, wound up brawling with those from the Farm. Woollard and his companions were armed with a gun; they shot one person as they made off from Broadwater Farm back to Forest Gate. Woollard and co were told in no uncertain terms never to come back to Tottenham, and those from the Farm said that they’d stay out of the East End. 

Click Here for Part Three: Yardies

[i] Glancey, J. & White, J. (1991). ‘Down, down, down on the Farm’, The Independent, 14 December, p. 29.
[ii] Loney, M. (1986). Imagery and reality in the Broadwater Farm riot. Critical Social Policy. 6 (1), 81-86.
[iii] Hearst, D. Parry, G. & Ezard, J. (1985) ‘Dispute with police was first link in riots chain’, The Guardian, 8 October.
[iv] ibid
[v] Rose, D. (1987). ‘Riot mob tried to behead PC Blakelock, says QC’, The Guardian, 22 January.
[vi] Victor, P. (1994). ‘Is he icon or demon?’, The Independent, 7 August, p.17.
[vii] ibid
[viii] Those on the Youth Opportunities job training schemes (YOPS)
[ix] Victor, P. (1994). ‘Is he icon or demon?’, The Independent, 7 August, p.17.
[x] Rose, D. (2004). ‘They created Winston Silcott, the beast of Broadwater Farm. And they won’t let this creation lie down and die’, The Observer, 18 January, p.1.
[xi] Rose, D. (1991). ‘The Winston Silcott Case: What the jury did not know’, The Observer, 14 July, p.19.
[xii] Mullin, J. (1991). ‘Blakelock detectives charged’, The Guardian, 14 December.
[xiii] Rose, D. (2004). ‘They created Winston Silcott, the beast of Broadwater Farm. And they won’t let this creation lie down and die’, The Observer, 18 January, p.1.
[xiv] Heller, Z. (1991). ‘The Silcott variations’, The Independent, 28 July.
[xv] Dalrymple, J. (1990). ‘Did Winston Silcott murder PC Blakelock’, The Independent, 28 January, p.17.
[xvi] Rose, D. (1988). ‘Broadwater three ‘safely convicted’: Lord Lane refuses leave to appeal over killing of PC’, The Guardian, 14 December.

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