PC Keith Blakelock's unit attacked with 'flamethrower'

This Is Local London: PC Keith Blakelock was stabbed as he tried to protect firefighters during unrest in Tottenham PC Keith Blakelock was stabbed as he tried to protect firefighters during unrest in Tottenham

PC Keith Blakelock's unit were attacked by a "flame-type thrower" before he was hacked to death by a mob, a jury has heard.

Jurors in the trial of Nicky Jacobs, the man accused of killing the police officer, were told a group of officers was attacked by a mob of 150 people as they tried to protect firefighters during the 1985 Broadwater Farm riots.

The court heard that bricks, bottles and petrol bombs rained down on the officers.

In a statement given two days after the riots and read out in court today by prosecutor Richard Whittam, one of the officers said he had seen "shiny knives" and a "flame-type thrower".

PC Alan Tappy explained that as the officers tried to escape, he became aware of a "bundle on the grass" that the mob were "stabbing and clubbing".

Explaining the aftermath, he said: "Keith was lying face-down and I thought he was dead. Pengelly (the unit's sergeant) was at the front of us, kneeling down to his left.

"We grabbed hold of Keith's shoulders and made an attempt to move him but couldn't.

"I remember one side of his neck had a wound, a gaping wound."

PC Tappy realised that his colleague was still alive as the unit tried to drag him to safety.

The court also heard a statement from PC Richard Coombes, who was beaten unconscious during the rioting.

PC Coombes, who the jury has already heard was "lucky to be alive", received facial injuries, cuts and had teeth knocked out during the onslaught.

The court heard that he had "no training or instruction" to use the riot gear he was issued with on the night of the riot.

In a statement given days after the riots, he said: "My feeling during this riot was that those doing the rioting attacked us with such ferocity and determination that I believe they wanted to do us serious harm.

"It made me fear for my life.

"I don't remember any other action taken by the remainder of my serial."

In the mayhem, PC Coombes said he lost his truncheon, shield and helmet.

Giving evidence, one of the firefighters who came under attack said the noise made by the mob was "equivalent to someone scoring a goal at a football match".

Assistant divisional officer Trevor Stratford told the jury that he was assisted by PC Blakelock as they tried to make their escape.

As they made their way out of the building where firefighters had been tackling a blaze, they were blocked by protesters with their faces covered.

He said: "This is a living memory for me.

"The first thing that came to mind was 'they are going to cut us off' because of the numbers involved."

Mr Stratford said that one officer screamed for the firefighters to "get the hell out of there" as between 50 and 80 rioters charged around.

Struck several times, Mr Stratford at one point turned and saw that PC Blakelock had fallen to the ground.

He told the court he wanted to go back but then witnessed how the police officer was "enveloped" by a group of eight or nine rioters.

Then he realised that two other officers appeared to be under attack.

One of them was PC Coombes, but he was dragged out of the crowds by colleagues.

Ordering his staff to take PC Coombes to hospital in a fire engine, Mr Stratford then saw around 20 to 25 people had "focused" on PC Blakelock, stabbing and kicking him.

He said: "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, the witness said he saw "what appeared to be something like a sword".

As the crowd began to disperse back into the building, the firefighter said he ran back to where PC Blakelock had fallen and "slipped" his way into a group that was still attacking him.

With some difficulty he and another police officer managed to drag the wounded officer away.

"I was conscious of him having a knife embedded up to the handle underneath his ear and injuries to his neck," he said.

He 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".

Jacobs denies murder. The trial continues.

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