Racist attack investigation reopened by Met Police

Racist attack investigation reopened by Met Police

An investigation into a racist attack on three black women has been reopened by the Metropolitan Police.

For nearly two weeks after the attack officers failed to recover CCTV or take witness statements, even from the victims, BBC Newsnight found.

The three women say the police made racist assumptions about them and that hampered the investigation.

The Met denies this but has apologised for failing the women and said it was reviewing its work.

The force told the women it had closed the probe into the crime in April, but reopened it this month following Newsnight’s investigation.

The three women, who are of Somali descent, were attacked in north west London on 22 December by a gang of seven white men who were shouting racist abuse.

Returning from a night out, a taxi dropped them off on Kilburn Lane shortly before 3am and they went to a convenience store to buy snacks. One of the women, Niyad Farah, 38, lived nearby and her two friends planned to sleep at her flat.

Ms Farah, who was born in Wales, but has lived in London for 13 years, told the BBC two white women in the shop became aggressive when they heard one of her friends speaking on the phone in Swedish, saying she should ‘speak English’.

She says her friend was then punched in the face by one of the white women who were waiting for her outside.

Moments later, Ms Farah said she heard extremely offensive racist abuse being shouted by a group of seven white men, who approached them from a dark-coloured van parked on the opposite side of the road.

She told Newsnight she was punched to the ground and dragged into a doorway next to the shop, while her two friends were also being punched and kicked on the ground.

“I was like being stamped on… I was just curled up on the floor.”

Visibly traumatised, she said: “I was thinking my son’s not going to have a mum. And… I’m going to be dead.”

She was kicked unconscious in the attack and needed hospital treatment for head injuries and extensive bruising.

Ms Farah said the Met’s investigation of the attack was seriously flawed and claimed the police made racist assumptions about her and her friends.

She says an officer asked her in hospital if she was ‘buying anything’ off the men. She believes he was implying they were buying drugs and the women knew the attackers. She told Newsnight she thought the officer believed “it was almost impossible for a racist attack to happen in that area”.

“I felt like I was being interrogated,” she added.

Newsnight asked Bob Quick, former head of specialist operations at the Met, to review the case.

He said if the PC had asked whether the women were buying drugs from their attackers, “that does imply the officers at the scene were working on some sort of assumption that they either knew the perpetrators or were in some way engaging with them, maybe buying drugs or whatever”.

“If that’s true, then that’s inexcusable,” Mr Quick said. “The police absolutely have a duty to be objective and not to jump to conclusions.”

The women believe racist assumptions undermined the police investigation but the Met denies the claim.

In a statement it said: “This line of questioning should not be considered as an officer making any assumptions or doubting the account given by a victim, and we refute any suggestion that this is what happened in this case.

“Our officers always keep an open mind as to the circumstances of any attack and must build an understanding of the facts.

“From a very early stage, this was treated as a serious racially aggravated assault committed by people unknown to the victims.”

Newsnight also found the police investigation was hampered by a series of serious, basic mistakes.

For nearly two weeks after the attack, no effort was made to recover CCTV, no witness statements were taken, even from the three women who had been attacked and no effort was made to trace a dark-coloured van associated with the men.

By the time the police tried to recover CCTV from shops in Kilburn Lane in early January, footage had been recycled – overwritten by new material.

Ms Farah, who works for a charity that helps ex-prisoners, said she was angry the Met failed to take a statement from her until February – two months after the attack and only after she chased them up. No statements from the other two women attacked – both witnesses – have ever been taken.

Mr Quick said the Met’s response had been “woeful”.

“This was an attack of extreme violence… and it was about compounded by racial motivation, the evidence of which is clear. It had the potential to really impact on community confidence,” he said.

In response to Newsnight’s investigation, the Met has apologised to the women. A spokesperson said the incident “should have been escalated and prioritised at an earlier stage”.

It added “there was a delay in the necessary follow-up enquiries being made just after the incident, and this hindered the subsequent investigation”.

“This shouldn’t have happened, and we are sorry for letting the victims in this case down. This was an appalling attack which should have been investigated with greater urgency.”

Watch Newsnight’s full investigation at 22:45 BST on Wednesday and after that on iPlayer.

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