hollowaymps - Met Police attack Holloway boys - 1983


Things like this might be the stuff of fiction: One night some Met Police officers opt for an orgy of violence & patrol North London’s streets for potential victims. Five young boys are found and a sustained attack is made upon the boys, leaving them fractured, cut, bruised and bloodied. It’s is not fiction nor is it fantasy. It actually happened.

It was an attack clearly done for fun, and one these officers wanted to do again.

On Saturday night, 6th August 1983, November 33, an elite Met Police team from the Metropolitan Police’s District Support Unit or DSU (2), was patrolling the streets of North London. The DSU were an elite support team, the second generation of the Metropolitan Police’s specialist public order units and clearly one whose role was “never that they should roam around the streets together in a van looking for trouble.” (3) They had earlier visited a fair at Highbury Fields and were apparently taunted by some boys. The eight officers “resolved corporately to extract some revenge, and to alleviate the boredom of what had turned out that day to be a double shift.”

Whether the boys at the fair were the same as those attacked is not resolutely known. However the five boys who were indeed attacked were on their way home from the fair around 10pm on that Saturday night when they sensed that a police van was indeed following them. 

They ran along Holloway Road into Georges Road (right opposite the London Metropolitan University’s premises.) The van caught up with them and officers immediately lined the boys up against some railings (which possibly formed the boundary to the rear of Radford House.) Thus began the horrific attack by the Met Police’s DSU November 33 team.

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George Road at the junction with Holloway Road (Google)

The five schoolboys, who were aged from 13 to 16, found themselves “the victims of a ‘sudden, quick and ferocious’ attack from the fists, feet and truncheons of officers…”

Serious injuries were sustained by the boys, ranging from fractures to deep cuts, shocking bruises and abrasions. One of the boys said these police officers simply “steamed into us.”

The eight officers of the November 33 elite unit sped off immediately after the attack. Not a single one of the unit’s officers “reported the incident to their superior officers.”

The victims (and their age at the time) were Gary Foley (14), Eric Ranger (14), Baltimore Ranger (16), Dan Jenkins (16) and Dursant Nalbant (13). Two of the victims were black hence its quite possible there was also a racial element to the attacks.

One of the officers involved in the attack (PC Gavin) told investigators “When we got back in the van everyone treated it as a vast joke. There was talk of doing it again. It was treated as fun.”

November 33 was one of three DSU teams in the area on that night. Despite two of these not being involved in the horrific beatings all three units conspired to build a wall of silence so investigators could never hope to find the perpetrators responsible.

For two and half years the eight offending cops could never be identified. The Metropolitan Police’s Complaints Investigation Bureau (CIB2) sought to find the officers responsible and from the three patrol units in the area at the time, which were Golf 30, November 30 and November 33, CIB2 mistakenly determined the November 30 team as the culprits. Clearly the net was closing in and an even stronger wall of silence fell across the police force to ensure the right unit, November 33, could never be identified.

At some point the Police Review magazine persuaded Scotland Yard to end its silence over the affair and publicly announce that the had found the officers responsible for the atrocity. An outcry followed as the news was revealed that the wrong officers had been identified. This was widely reported across the media. 

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Extracts from a news report 8 Feb 1986

More than three years after the assault, in February 1986, three officers finally came forward. Under the prospect of immunity, they identified the correct police unit – November 33 whose eight officers were PCs Kevin Luxford, Derek Jamieson, Phillip Boak, Edward Main, Michael Gavin, Nicholas Wise, Michael Parr and Sergeant Colin Edwards. Of these eight five were eventually sentenced for their heinous crimes.

5officers - Met Police attack Holloway boys - 1983
The 5 officers: Sgt Colin Edwards, Michael Parr/Gavin, Nicholas Wise, Edward Main.
The trial of November 33’s officers took place at the Old Bailey in July 1987.
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The Old Bailey – from Wikipedia

One of the findings from the Old Bailey trial was that the Met’s DSU teams were compromised of inexperienced officers who were simply in a “habit of driving around together and, effectively, hunting in a pack.” This led to calls for the DSU’s to be disbanded and replaced by units utilising more experienced officers.
On 16th July 1987, the judges at the Old Bailey directed the terms of punishment for the attack on the five Holloway boys. Mr Justice Kenneth Jones said the officers of the November 33 unit had been engaged in a “disgraceful episode” and behaved “like vicious hooligans and lied like common criminals.” 
Three of the officers were sentenced to a total of 12 years in prison. Two others’ sentences totalling four and half years. PCs Edward Main, Michael Gavin and Nicholas Wise received four years each for assault and conspiring to pervert the course of justice. Sergeant Colin Edwards received three years for perverting the course of justice, gross misconduct, failing to protect the victims and reporting the incident. PC Michael Parr was jailed for 18 months for perverting the course of justice. 
In passing verdict, Mr Justice Kenneth Jones commented further, “This was a brutal, bullying and unprovoked attack upon innocent schoolboys. They had given you no particular trouble. Yet you turned upon them and beat them brutally. By these assaults you have betrayed your own manhood and you have been false to the high traditions of the Metropolitan Police.” The judge added that “You were prepared to allow suspicion to fall upon your brother officers in the Metropolitan Police to save your own skins.” And finally, “you all conspired to lie and lie again, and you did nothing to repair the damage you knew you had done.”
PCs Kevin Luxford and Phillip Boak, two of the three officers of the November 33 unit who came forward and revealed the identities of the perpetrators, all admitted lying and conspiring to conceal the truth, were not disciplined. Instead they were advised “Their usefulness as coppers is at an end and the sooner they clear off the better.” The third, PC Derek Jamieson, had already heeded this popular opinion and resigned from the police.

It transpired PC Edward Main had been involved in an attack upon a victim prior to the Holloway Boys case, and had been allowed to continue as a service officer despite the Met Police having to pay out damages to the unknown victim for PC Main’s assault.

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From a news article 18 July 1987

Compensation was paid to at least three of the boys – a paltry £1,000 that was paid out of court.

Deputy Assistant Commander Peter Winship apologised on behalf of the Met, said these officers “disgraced the proud reputation” of police and “angered the many thousands of officers who each day perform loyal service to the people of London.” He added that the attack had been a serious departure from the high standards expected of the force’s officers and “that it was accompanied by a prolonged conspiracy to conceal the truth is a matter of even deeper concern.”

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TSG vans – picture from You Tube

As a result of the Holloway Boys attack, the Met Police’s elite DSU was replaced with what one could perhaps consider an equally troublesome unit – the Territorial Support Group (TSG.)

The DSU itself had replaced the earlier Special Patrol Group (or SPG), itself historically incarcerated in the events surrounding the murder of Blair Peach at Southall in 1979. These changes were implemented by the Met Police in the hope the new units would be free of any paramilitary image or reputation.

One other result from the case was all police vehicles be identified by numbers on their roofs and sides so that they could easily be picked out.

The horrific assault by the Met Police officers even came up in Parliament debates. Here’s one example from Hansard:

hansard - Met Police attack Holloway boys - 1983
Hansard 24th July 1987 – Subject: Police Assault Incident (Holloway)

(1) Headline in the Guardian letters, 22nd July 1987 
(2) Not to be confused with the present denomination used for the Dog Support Unit.
(3) Brian Hillard, editor, Police Review 17th July 1987

This is one of a number of articles including racist incidents which has been restored from my other blog.

metpoliceholloway - Met Police attack Holloway boys - 1983

First published August 2015.