Death of Blair Peach
In 1979 the Labour government of Jim Callaghan had seemingly lost control of the economy. Economic woes as ever bred discontent on the streets, a situation tailor made for the likes of the National Front to exploit for its own ends. On April 23 a meeting of the National Front was provocatively arranged to take place at Ealing Town Hall, an area with a large Asian community. Massive police intervention would be needed to keep anti-Nazi demonstrators and the few NF members apart.
Part of the huge police presence was made up of members of the Special Patrol Group. During the course of the demonstration the SPG was alleged to have assaulted many demonstrators, putting several in hospital. Blair Peach, a 33-year-old New Zealander working in London as a special needs teacher, was struck over the head, again allegedly by one or more SPG members, and died later in hospital. Various witnesses – perhaps 11 in total - claimed that they had seen the attack. Once again allegedly police complaints investigators discovered numbers of non-regulation weapons in SPG lockers, including pick-axe handles, lead-weighted coshes, and even knives; additionally Nazi paraphernalia was also supposedly found. It is also claimed that after the seriousness of the situation became apparent to the SPG group which had been in the area, some of them changed their appearance with the addition or removal of facial hair; uniforms were hurriedly dry cleaned; and at least one officer it is said refused to take part in an ID parade.
At the inquest into the death of Blair Peach the coroner pressed the jury to deliver a verdict of misadventure; to the layman this can only seem strange. In 1989 the Metropolitan Police reached an out-of-court settlement with Blair Peach’s family. No public inquiry was ever held into his death.
After three decades the Metropolitan Police report into the investigation after Blair Peach’s death is due to be released. Whoever killed Mr Peach is unlikely ever to be held to account; but the publication of the report may give us a better view of what happened, and perhaps explain why nobody was tried for offences relating to his death. But it is unlikely to remove the stench that still surrounds the whole affair after so many years.
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