The most important article to have been published about Blair Peach’s killing was this article for the Leveller magazine, from January 1980. The Leveller, for those who don’t know, was a left-labour magazine, with contributors including Steve Bell, Julia Bird, and Tim Gompsill and the late, erudite historian of the left Al Richardson.
In January 1980, the Leveller broke the news that six police officers: Murray, White, Scottow, etc, were the prime suspects for Peach’s killing. There names had not previously been published.
Re-reading it now, there is one paragraph which leaps off the page.
“Witness accounts are unclear as to whether Peach was hit by the first officer who jumped out of the van, but it would surely not have been beyond the Cass enquiry’s power to establish who was sitting where in the van and who was first on to the street. There are two doors on the passenger side of SPG Carriers, one of the radio operators in the front seat, in this case most likely to have been Murray, as senior-ranking officer, and one for the other other four constables in the back. Strangely enough, it was the Carrier’s driver, PC Raymond ‘Chalky’ White, who was held [in June] for three days’ continuous questioning by Cass and the enquiry team…”
We know why at the early stages of the Cass inquiry his attention focussed on White: first (as the Leveller went on to explain) because White’s locker had been found to contain a cosh, and because the early medical evidence found that a cosh was a possible cause of the death. And second, because White was one of three officers, also including Inspector Murray, to have claimed falsely that Murray left the vehicle a full junction away from where Peach had been killed.
The reasons why Cass had decided that White was probably not the killer were again two-fold. First (as the Leveller went on to explain) because White had been the driver, and Cass had very little information as to how long he had been out of the vehicle. (The Leveller surmises that Cass could have asked who was sat where in the police carrier. He did indeed ask, but the officers from the van refused to say). And second, because the medical evidence was ultimately that White’s cosh was not the murder weapon, but that it was more likely to have been a police radio.
Nowhere in the Cass report was there any attempt to work out which officer might have been operating the radio. On my reading of Cass, he assumed that the chances of any officer holding the radio were just about equal. But if you go back to the Leveller piece, you will see an additional detail, which I, for one, find telling.
As ever you can double click on the image to enlarge it and read the original article.
Finally, I’m hoping to bring out over the next few weeks two further pieces which will go into much more detail about how exactly Peach was killed. The first will, hopefully, be a piece for the London Review of Books. The second will be a pamphlet for the campaigning group Defend the Right to Protest. Until then, #JusticeforPeach.
H/t Evan Smith