On 4 August 2011, armed units from the Metropolitan police forced a taxi off the road before pumping several bullets into the vehicle’s passenger. In a matter of minutes, a 29-year-old black man, Mark Duggan lay dying by a north London road. The chaos that followed threw London into days of rioting and disorder. This Press TV production exposes the racist underbelly and nature of the British legal and judiciary system. For a country that preaches equality, it appears certain individuals are more equal than others in the eyes of British justice. Mark Duggan’s death is particularly chilling as his killing occurred in Tottenham, a neighbourhood with a poor history of relations between the police and the community. Mark Duggan’s family and friends are still seeking answers from a British judicial system that they felt not only assassinated Mark Duggan but also tried to assassinate his character.
The Killing of Mark Duggan
TIME CODE: 00:00_05:00
Narration: It was a killing that rocked a community and sparked one of the largest instances of civil unrest in a generation.
The inquest verdict of lawful killing at the hands of the Met police threatened to derail already fragile community-police relations but four years on from Mark Duggan’s death, friends, family and supporters provide rare insight into their fight for answers. This story holds personal resonance for me.
The heart of this tragedy lay in Tottenham, a place with a fractious and sometimes contentious history.
It was the epicenter of the Broadwater Farm riots in 1985 where PC Keith Blakelock was killed. It was home to Mark Duggan and a place I put down roots for over two decades.
The Duggan campaign has refused to accept the official narrative of what happened on August 4, 2011 when two bullets from a Metropolitan firearms officer ended the life of the 29-year-old father of six.
SOUNDBITE [English] Pamela Duggan, Mark Duggan’s Mother: “I had a feeling something was wrong because people kept coming round. My friends called and I said to her ‘what's going on today because something doesn't feel right’. Because she kept answering the phone outside the door and then I don't know I went blank. It came on the news that actually, somebody had been shot and I thought no, that can't be Mark because the first story said that it was a 40 year old man so I thought I'm not even thinking that is Mark actually. And then in the evening Mark’s baby mother she came to the door and she was crying with Mark’s sister ‘I don't believe it I don't believe it it's Mark, Marks been killed’ I said ‘no’ she said ‘yes I need his birth certificate, because I had birth certificates for the kids, so I gave it to her and I still didn't believe that Mark had died. Then it came on the news and I thought no, no it can't be. I spoke to Carole, she was in Manchester at the time and I said ‘Carole it's not true is it. She was saying ‘what, what,’ but she already knew.
Narration: Carole Duggan has been the public face of the Justice for Mark campaign. Mark and his brother Marlon lived with her in Manchester for years. The phone call to say Mark was dead came from Seemone – the mother of several of Mark’s children.
SOUNDBITE [English] Carole Duggan, Mark Duggan’s Aunt: “I couldn't get sense out of her. I kept saying ‘who is saying he's dead Seemone, who is saying he was dead?’ because I didn't know if it was rumour on the street or if it was official she said ‘everybody’s saying it, that everybody is saying that.’ I'm saying ‘Seemone, where are you?’ She said I’'m at the scene, I’m at the scene.’ I said where is Marlon? I said put Marlon on the phone. All I could hear was Marlon screaming from the bottom of his belly and I knew, I knew then that it was real. It didn't sink into my head that Mark was dead because I didn't want to believe he was. I'm thinking they might have made a mistake, he might be injured or, or dramatization over dramatized but the way they were screaming I knew it was serious.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Marcus, Mark Duggan’s Friend: “I tried to walk towards the scene but couldn't really get over there because obviously they taped everything off, you get me, but I want back to Seemone and she said his body is still on the ground over there so I tried to walk back in and rush towards the tape to see if I could see his body but obviously the police run towards me and said you can't come over there because it's a crime scene.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Amina, Host of program: “Did you expect any of this to happen the way it did?”
SOUNDBITE [English] Marcus, Mark Duggan’s Friend: “No way no way man it was a shock. It devastated everybody. It was a shock it devastated everyone and devastated England; you get what I’m saying? devastated England everybody was hurt by that.”
TIME CODE: 05:15_10:00
SOUNDBITE [English] Pamela Duggan, Mark Duggan’s Mother: “A lot of people didn't believe it we all thought no it can't be more it can't be Mark that's why I was in denial even when they said do you want to come and see the body in the chapel of rest I said no I said no I don't want to go. That would've that wouldn't have been good for me last time I've seen Mark he was in my garden and he was alive so I didn't wanna really see him in no...”
Narration: The following days were chaotic with conflicting reports about what had happened. Both the police and the body that investigated police misconduct – The Independent Police Complaints Commission passed the buck.
SOUNDBITE [English] Claudia Webbe, EX-Chair of Trident Independent Advisory Group: “It left the vacuum of information. They created, in a sense, space for all kinds of alternative to be laid out, for rumors and all that information to be laid out. At the same time they did an injustice to the family of Mark Duggan and really an injustice to Mark Duggan because they let information, incorrect information, to be to be allowed to fly on that night. That suggested that there was a shoot-out for example, when no such thing occurred or to suggest that an officer had been hurt or that the gun was in in his hands and so on and so forth.”
Narration: Behind closed doors, a family crisis was unfolding. As Tottenham ignited, no one had told the older Duggan children their father had been killed.
SOUNDBITE [English] Carole Duggan, Mark Duggan’s Aunt: “I was withholding it and I don't know why, well, I know why because I didn't want to see them hurt I didn't want to see their lives damaged and it has been. So I think if they had passports I would have took them abroad to try and save them. So none of us will ever forget that day and the day we had to bring them home and all the family were here in London and we had to tell them. All the grown men were crying because Kymani the screams from that child… Cajun, the next son, he just vomited all over me because he just couldn't …they had a really close relationship with Mark. And Mark was like their best friend and nothing could console them, even Marlon. I kept trying to say ‘but your uncle is here’ he said ‘no I don't want him I want my daddy. It's the worst thing ever experienced in my life.”
Narration: The family wanted answers and the British judicial system was slow in providing them. The inquest verdict, when it came, was a shock and official efforts to provide a counter-narrative were met with skeptism.
SOUNDBITE [English] Pamela Duggan, Mark Duggan’s Mother: “I couldn't even get up off the chair I can believe it because I was on the stand a few days before and I was thinking positively they murdered my son but when that verdict came I can even get up they just had to sort of I was thinking this can't be right but that's the verdict.”
Narration: The wait for an inquest decision was almost as painful as the verdict.
SOUNDBITE [English] Shonel, Mark Duggon’s Ex-Girlfriend: “At the inquest I really thought, I really did think we were going to get the right result because it was black and white literally. I know how it is when you're up against the police I know it's not as easy as that. That was another blow in itself.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Stafford Scott, Tottenham Rights: “We believe that the inquest didn't come to the right verdict we believe it was a perverse the verdict and the reason we believe it was a perverse verdict was that jury were misled by Trident officers and because the IPCC are ineffective and did not do their jobs.”
TIME CODE: 10:00_15:00
Narration: This opinion is widely shared, including by one of the UK’s most experienced legal minds
SOUNDBITE [English] Courtenay Griffiths, British Barrister: “There is a logical inconsistency at the heart of the verdict returned by the jury in the Mark Duggan inquest which I find very difficult to understand and interpret in ways which appear logical and reasonable. So the jury concluded that at the time he was shot Mark Duggan didn't have a gun in his hand. If that be right he is not posing a threat so why was he shot? And that is the contradiction which I find difficult to explain and why, understandably, the family friends and supporters of Mark Duggan are still continuing to campaign because they cannot see, given those inconsistencies, that justice has been done and that is why they need to take this thing further.”
Narration: With a judicial review of the inquest verdict rejected, the IPCC’s 500-page report declared the matter closed. Not everyone agreed. The push for a public inquiry focuses on the role of Operation Trident – an elite Met unit – now disbanded – that dealt with black on black crime and the Kevin Hutchinson Foster –the man who supplied the disputed firearm –to Mark Duggan which led to his run-in with the police on that fateful day.
SOUNDBITE [English] Stafford Scott, Tottenham Rights: “We are focusing on officers from Operation Trident and their activities. Within all of this we now know Operation Trident officers had ample opportunities to take that gun off the street before they killed Mark Duggan for it and we also know that they had ample opportunity to arrest the person who supplied the firearm to Mark Duggan and for whatever reason they choose not to. We can only conclude and be left believing that they choose not to because that person was very helpful to them. There is real solid belief in our community now that Kevin Hutchinson Foster was actually working alongside Operation Trident and was almost planting that gun on Mark Duggan.”
Had the police acted differently, is it possible Mark Duggan would still be alive today?
SOUNDBITE [English] Courtenay Griffiths, British Barrister: “Well that's a possibility because in the Mark Duggan case, for example, there is a shroud of secrecy surrounding the person from whom he obtained a weapon and yet that individual never really featured in initial disclosures about the circumstances surrounding Mark Duggan's death. And the provenance of that gun and its prior use has only been brought to light recently. Now it may well be that an independent observer, knowing that the police had prior contact with the supplier of that weapon might've intervened to say’ well why don't we arrest this chap?’ And such an arrest might have halted the chain of events which tragically resulted in Mark Duggan’s shooting.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Claudia Webbe, EX-Chair of Trident Independent Advisory Group: “How did it go so badly wrong for what must've been a routine Trident-type investigation because if Trident believed that Mark Duggan was a perpetrator and what they were seeking to do was to stop him from whatever they believed he was engaged in certainly we didn't set up the Trident in the police as part of the police for perpetrators to end up dead without the notion of any charge, and without any investigation, without any trial and there any notion of a court appearance.”
Narration: Specific allegations were put to the Met on these issues but there has been no response. The lingering questions about police conduct served to reignite anger in a community that has had its fair share of run-ins.
SOUNDBITE [English] Temi Mwale at Justice for Mark Duggan Campaign: “We’ve had a few prosecutions but never a conviction and that just tells us in the community that our lives don't matter. It won't matter in the court. So with that being the way it is, the relationship between the black community and the police is not going to improve because they haven't taken the first step to admit the years of damage that they've created. How can we start to trust them on and still thinking and feeling the same way that we've done for arguably decades?”
TIME CODE: 15:00_20:00
SOUNDBITE [English] Amina, Host of Program: “What's the relationship as you see it between the black community and the police?”
SOUNDBITE [English] Fidel Kenny at Justice for Mark Duggan Campaign: “It's oppressive. They’re an occupying force. Look at where Mark Duggan was from, where his community is from. It’s not just Tottenham, it's the Broadwater Farm Estate in Tottenham. Now how many years on now, four years and since the riots in 2011 and we've had four vigils. Sometimes it's outside the police station and other times it will be at the community centre. We always go back to the farm, Broadwater Farm, so the community can come out and have their space to celebrate Mark's life. Four times we've been there on this day and every single time we witnessed police coming through the estate in big bully vans, in riot vans full to the brim with officers all suited up. Just driving, just driving looking out the window, staring down the people and drive out again. I'm sorry but that's reminiscent of an Israeli occupying force driving through settlements and towns that they’ve occupied and telling you that we have a presence here, we just telling you we just showing you that we are around don't mess about, we can come back any time and grab anyone of you and any time.”
Narration: Mark Duggan’s death has to be looked at in wider context, through the lens of a society that still battles with racism within its institutions, something even the police commissioner has acknowledged. Mark Duggan’s death joins the hundreds who have died after coming into contact with the authorities.
SOUNDBITE [English] Courtenay Griffiths, British Barrister: “I think we need to look at the use of lethal force by police as in the Mark Duggan case but it shouldn't be limited to the Mark Duggan case because I think there is a problem within policing and not just in the United Kingdom about the way that police use lethal force particularly when they come in touch with black people because it is the fact that black people have this curious propensity to die whenever they come in contact with the police to an extent that is remarkable compare to other sections of society.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Claudia Webbe, EX-Chair of Trident Independent Advisory Group: “We have to often question why is it that there are so many black people that when they come into contact with the police why do so many of them end up dead and I think what happened to Mark Duggan was symbolic of that and to this day the police have never given a proper account of what happened.”
Narration: As the Justice for Mark Duggan campaigns puts pressure on the Home Secretary to give the calls for a public inquiry her backing, the man whose death sparked an uprising leaves behind loved ones struggling to come to terms with his absence and the manner of his killing.
SOUNDBITE [English] Pamela Duggan, Mark Duggan’s Mother: “Sometimes I go around the house and I talk to him I talk to him like he's here I say ‘Mark I've had a terrible day’ one day he might answer me back. But yeah I really miss him, so much. Birthdays, Christmas because he always bought me something for Mother's Day; a teddy bear, a bunch of flowers them days hit me, Mother's Day, his birthday in September. I wanna see justice. I want to see someone pay for what my son went through. He was murdered in daylight, broad daylight. So I want to see some kind of justice because it’s, it's hurting everyone too much six children got left behind, me, his brothers and sisters his dad felt it for him, his brothers and sisters, Carole, there are a lot of people out there who knew Mark wasn't this man that they said he was so I don't understand why not one policeman has got into trouble, not one of the police officers who were there.”
TIME CODE: 20:00_24:45
Narration: Mark’s older children have been particularly affected by his killing.
SOUNDBITE [English] Carole Duggan, Mark Duggan’s Aunt: “Kimani is so damaged by Mark's death and he's just had no support and no help from anybody. He's just been kind of left his own devices and now he's getting into trouble and he's getting blamed for his own actions. Where Mark was his best friend and he's got no friends now nobody can take the place of that friendship so Kimani is just lost. He's got no ambition, he's got no hobbies. He was mad for football, he doesn't even play football anymore. He's got nothing to look forward to and there is no help. I'm afraid for Kimani. I told him the other day I said ‘they took your dad, the police took your dad and what I see with your actions you are going to give yourself to them. They took your dad, they're going to take you because you're going to give yourself to them.’ but what else is there for him? He’s so angry with the police. He hates the police, he scared of the police and there's nobody there to help him through that or to make him understand. We all know the police have a role, we all know they are necessary but Kimani just has this hatred which is not healthy because he's going to carry that through his life and when he becomes a man I don't know. I'm scared for his future.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Shonel, Mark Duggon’s Ex-Girlfriend: “It a vigil she then heard everyone chanting ‘who killed Mark Duggan the police killed Mark Duggan’ she said to me days after she said ‘mum did the police kill my dad? did police kill my dad? Because if the police killed my dad I'm going to kill the police. That just broke me because she up till then she didn't know how her dad had gone and then she went to school and said it to the kids and the kids then told the teachers and the teachers called me and said sure they was telling her friends that the police had killed her dad.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Christian, Mark Duggan’s Friend: “There ain't no happiness any more. You get on with your day because we have kids we have to smile in front of them and keep them going, you understand what I'm saying? It's hard when you see a child looking at the TV and looking and saying ‘there is uncle Mark. That's hard. It's mad. Your kids got to grow up and you think that the impact that is building on everybody I don't tell my child to hate anyone but my childhood see a policeman walk off or run-off do you understand what I'm saying? Because they're old enough to understand that the police had killed his uncle and that's it's always going to be there it's always going to be there. Always.”
Narration: Tottenham is changing but at the heart is an open wound that threatens to fester if left unattended. This is the Mark Duggan case. Unfinished business as far as his supporters are concerned.
SOUNDBITE [English] Stafford Scott, Tottenham Rights: “We will carry on fighting and if we have to carry on fighting for 30 years like the good families in Liverpool have done with Hillsborough then so be it we will fight for 30 years. My children come to these meetings and if I die tomorrow I will hope I will hope and expect that my children will carry on this fight because if they don't their children are going to be growing up suffering and enduring exactly what we have and you are in this town ever since we made this place our own.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Marcus, Mark Duggan’s Friend: “These things ain't no five minutes for justice it's something you have to be persistent about where here to find man get me and hopefully will get answers soon you get what I'm saying?”
SOUNDBITE [English] Shonel, Mark Duggon’s Ex-Girlfriend: “The support from the community is great but we need to be bigger than that. This is something that's gone worldwide you know so it's just …I don't know don't even know what they've done ... They don't even know what they've done.”
Narration: A community left to grieve, a family traumatized and still unanswered questions. What could be the next spark to set the UK alight? Tottenham waits with bated breath.