Marcia Rigg and Samantha Rigg-David gave powerful and moving speeches at INQUEST’s recent fundraising dinner, Hands Up for INQUEST. Their brother Sean Rigg died in Brixton police station in 2008. Almost four years later, an inquest jury returned one of the most damning verdicts of recent times. INQUEST is continuing to support them in their quest for justice and accountability. Their words were as follows:
“I will never forget the night of Thursday the 21st August 2008 at around 3am in the morning, when I received distressing news, that my brother Sean had ‘died’ suddenly whilst in the hands of four Brixton police officers. It was a devastating blow to our family. The news, delivered by 2 female police women and their explanation – or lack of – that night – left us in complete shock, in pain, anger, and frustration – and completely in the dark about how Sean could come to meet his death so suddenly after being a fit and physically healthy 40 year old man.
“The only thing they got right that night was that at some point they handed me a bunch of leaflets to read – I balked at the idea of having to decipher this pile of useless material – but, when I had a moment, I shuffled through them….I came across a blue & white leaflet which caught my eye – particularly because it had large quotes from other bereaved families – one in particular from the Roger Sylvester family that read something like “If it wasn’t for INQUEST, we would have never have gotten through this process” words to that effect…
“I remember thinking, if this is true, if this is a real quote from a real family, then it was vital that we contact this so called organisation.
“YOU SEE – alarm bells started to ring – we felt suspicious – it just didn’t seem to add up or makes sense…One major alarm bell was – I understood that Sean needed to be formally identified – but those so called family liaison officers – they refused us this. They said they had no other information to give us – other than Sean had collapsed suddenly, with no warning – they said that they would drip feed information to us as the night and day went on – that never happened.
“They left our home probably around 5am – they had left us with more questions than answers….There was no way we could rest or sleep – we continued to search for answers – help from family and friends, from the internet…perhaps we needed legal advice…anything… Amongst all the calls we made early that morning I made a frantic call to INQUEST around 6am and probably left an incoherent message and some sort of cry for help on their answer machine. I explained about Sean and the leaflet the police gave us…
“We received a call back around 9am from a lady called Sian Griffiths – it was a very friendly, comforting, assuring and warm voice – she seemed to completely understand some of the turmoil we would be feeling – she explained the process clearly in bite- sized manageable chunks – She said, the FIRST THING that will now happen is that there will be an autopsy – she immediately sprang into action for us – and made phone calls to find out exactly where Sean was.
“This was the first I had heard – or registered that they would be conducting an autopsy without Sean even being formally identified. INQUEST walked us through the process for that whole weekend, I remember getting reassuring calls from Deborah Coles – It was a bank holiday weekend – she called me from home – from her mobile.
“Whenever we needed them they were always on the end of the phone – advising us, comforting us, making calls on our behalf and imparting their vast knowledge of what would happen, and what we needed to do – and all the things to watch out for – INQUEST simply never left our side, so to speak. I sincerely believe we would have never had gotten this far without them…”
“INQUEST was without any doubt a lifeline to my family within hours of police liaison officers coming to tell us that Sean had died in police custody, as you have just heard from my sister Samantha, and continues to be a lifeline to many other families who find themselves in the same predicament as my family.
“Lets not forget INQUEST’s brilliant and fearless legal team – Daniel Machover and Helen Stone of Hickman & Rose Solicitors, Anna Mazzola who in the early days followed-up ALL our concerns and questions, Leslie Thomas and Tom Stoate and all the team at Garden Court Chambers – all of whom have been a tower of strength as we certainly could not have come this far without them and their expertise. INQUEST and the Lawyers Group come as one package and the work they have accomplished over the years must not be underestimated. May I take this opportunity to applaud them for their unbroken support to our family, and many others.
“The Sean Rigg Justice and Change Campaign, named by our Mother, has for the last four and a half years at great personal time and expense, successfully campaigned and brought awareness to the community both politically and in the mainstream media highlighting the important issues families unnecessarily face after the sudden death of their loved one in State custody. It has not been an easy road, both emotionally and physically. Meeting other families confirmed that our views and feelings were not isolated to the Rigg family alone and we quickly learnt the systematic failures the current British legal system offers to families, which is disheartening and soul destroying.
“INQUEST facilitated with the Independent Police Complaints Commission (the IPCC) the opportunity for quite a number of families across the country to meet together and share their concerns and experiences with them in an open setting. This was vital in order for families to have a voice and for it to be recorded. INQUEST and its lawyers’ policy and parliamentary work have positively outlined the crucial flaws, which will inevitably bring equal rights and justice IF addressed by this government. I am appreciative to have had the opportunity to give evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee’s Inquiry into the Independent Police Complaints Commission and to speak with various influential MP’s and journalists. This has given us the platform to plea our case on Sean’s behalf, and I have hope that this will make real change for others.
“INQUEST’s publications on the relevant issues of concern, its case studies and Family Support Toolkit is a vital and necessary resource as there are very few organisations, if at all, a family can turn to for help in order to understand the extensively long process that will take place, which can take years after the death and which is traumatic in itself. Certainly, to date, we cannot depend on the IPCC. Hopefully, the work by all concerned in this room will bring to the table true independence of the IPCC and force this government to uphold its obligations, by law, to this country and to the people it serves.
“For all these reasons, and more I and my family support and will continue to support the work of INQUEST. I give personal thanks to Deborah Coles, Victoria McNally, Hannah Ward, Helen Shaw and all the team at INQUEST, a very big thank you for all your positive and effective hard-work and to this end, I hold my ‘hands-up’ to you all in unity and strength.
“No Justice, No Peace.”