‘Tony Blair we want justice!’ shouted over seven hundred bereaved families and supporters outside Downing Street last Saturday.
They had marched from Trafalgar Square on the annual United Families and Friends Campaign remembrance procession, to commemorate those who have died in state custody.
‘Too many people in this country have been murdered by the state,’ said Rogi Johnson of the Christopher Alder campaign.
‘They’ve taken out loved ones and they laugh at us and spit in our face,’ he added.
‘What this government is doing all over the world is injustice, not just in Iraq and Afghanistan but here in this country.’
Christopher Alder’s sister Janet Alder shouted: ‘People have been campaigning for fifteen years and there’s no accountability.’
She alleged: ‘They left my brother to die in a police cell like a dog.
‘We want the perpetrators put where we would be if we killed a pollice officer.’
Patricia da Silva, cousin of innocent young Brazilian, Jean Charles de Menezes who was shot dead by armed police, told News Line: ‘I am not happy with this situation, the shoot-to-kill policy.
‘The police and the authorities take no responsibility for the murder of my cousin.
‘The police are hiding behind the health and safety law.
‘They are using this law to avoid a prosecution for murder.
‘It’s bad that the family have not seen the Independent Police Complaints Commission report.
‘We don’t know what is happening. We need this report to bring out the truth and back our case for prosecuting the police for murder.’
Deborah Coles of Inquest added: ‘It’s disgraceful that the Blair government has allowed deaths in custody to continue in such relentless numbers.’
Janet Brough told News Line: ‘I’m marching for my sister Valerie Hays.
‘She died in Styal Prison in May this year.
‘She hung herself. We are still waiting for a date for her inquest.
‘My grief is with society. Valerie should have been in a hospital. She hadn’t committed a crime.
‘She was put there because she was suicidal.
‘The mental hospital where we live in Warrington said she wasn’t ill enough to warrant a bed.
‘Two professionals decided she should be put somewhere for her own safety and it was decided to put her in Styal.
‘The government’s cuts in the NHS contribute to my sister’s tragic death.
‘The government are putting people in prison who have mental problems but prison officers are not trained to look after mentally ill people.
‘I want these mental hospitals to be re-opened so people can get help there.’
Gwen Calvert said: ‘My son Paul died within two days of entering Pentonville Prison.
‘He went in on 22nd October 2004 and died on 24 October 2004.
‘He was imprisoned for breaking bail conditions.
‘I’m devastated. I did a vigil outside Pentonville last Tuesday – we do that every year on 24 October.
‘We have an inquest pending next January.
‘It’s implied that there was gross negligence but that will be for the jury to decide.
‘Us grieving families will continue our campaign until justice is done for our loved ones – and we will not be silenced!
‘The Home Office is not recognising the scandalous number of deaths in custody.
‘Up to September 2006, there were 124 deaths in custody – shame on the Home Office.
‘That young Brazilian was shot seven times in the head and yet Met chief Blair said he was “comfortable” with the policy.
‘The police who shot him should be prosecuted.’
Dorothy Thomas told News Line: ‘My son Jason had mental health problems.
‘From March 2004, we were trying to get help from social services.
‘They were assessing him the week before he was arrested.
‘Jason was asking for help, he was suffering from depression as well.
‘A social services psychologist said there there was not enough funding to give him help.
‘He was arrested a week after, accused of stealing a packet of bacon, which he did not do.
‘He was staying in a tent. When the police dragged him out there was a scuffle and he bit a policeman on the shoulder.
‘He wasn’t a violent person, he may be agitated when he is scared but he was not violent.
‘He was put in the back of a police van and sprayed with CS gas.
‘He reacted by kicking out and damaged the police van, so went to court for that.
‘The judge said he wasn’t fit to plead and sent him to Swansea Prison on remand.
‘When he went to prison, the judge had stamped suicide all over his papers.
‘His solicitor and the psychiatrist from social services said he would get the help he needed.
‘Jason told the psychiatrist on the Friday he was thinking of killing himself.
‘On the following Monday, the psychiatrist rang the solicitor and told him what Jason had said, but he had already died that day.
‘The prison put out a press release saying Jason was not suicidal.
‘It is disgusting that the government go on about wrongdoing in other countries and they can’t ever get it right here.
‘They are closing down mental hospitals and there is nowhere else for people who need help.’
Susan Alexander’s son Azelle Rodney was shot dead by police.
She said: ‘It’s 18 months since Azelle was killed and we still haven’t got answers.
‘All the families here want answers. It’s simple enough.
‘Why do we have to wait just to know what happened to our loved ones and to get justice?
‘After the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided not to prosecute they never had the decency to meet us face to face – it was done by email.’
Jennie Alexander, Azelle’s aunt added: ‘We want to be treated like human beings and we want answers, we want justice.
‘We’re expected to live by the law of the land and if we do something wrong, we expect to be prosecuted.
‘But when it comes to the Metropolitan Police, it’s just not happening.
‘There’s one law for them and another law for us.’
James Rodney, Azelle’s younger brother said: ‘It’s an injustice. I had more faith in the legal system and police.
‘They should be serving the community, not shooting people down in the street.
‘The fact that my brother was unarmed at the time makes it even worse.
‘The whole system is corrupt, the police get away with anything.’
Paul Coker’s mother, Patricia Coker told News Line: ‘Paul died in Plumstead police station on 6th of August last year.
‘He was arrested for a minor breach of the peace at his girlfriend’s house.
‘Sixteen police turned up, including a sergeant and an inspector.
‘He became a medical emergency at the scene of arrest but the police, instead of taking him straight to hospital, took the decision to take him back to Plumstead police station, where there is no life-saving equipment – and left him in his cell.
‘There is video evidence showing he was unwell. He was not violent.’
Patricia alleged: ‘He was taken to the police station at about 5.20am, put in a cell and left without medical attention.
‘He was pronounced dead at 6.45 am. The doctor never went inside his cell.
‘I believe the police sentenced my son to death when they made the decision in the flat not to take him immediately to hospital.
‘I’m angry that these things are allowed to happen in this country.
‘It’s a year later and these things are still going on. It’s a national disgrace.’
Pauline Campbell, whose 18-year-old daughter Sarah died in Styal prison, told News Line: ‘It’s time prisons upheld their legal duty of care owed to all inmates.
‘The government is failing to take clear and decisive action to deal with the continuing crisis in our jails.
‘Home Secretary John Reid’s plan to provide 80,000 extra prison places at a cost of £800m is ridiculous.
‘They are bringing back prison ships. This is under a Labour government – shame on them, shame on Blair.’
Yvonne Scholes, whose 16-year-old son Joseph Scholes died in Stoke Heath Offenders Institute, said: ‘I’m just disgusted that the deaths continue and children are warehoused in failing Young Offenders Institutes.
‘There was a nine-hour riot in Stoke Heath about three weeks ago.
‘The national control and restraint team were called in. The following day there was a rooftop protest.
‘I blame the Youth Justice Board for allowing the abuses to continue and successive home secretaries who have failed to act despite all the warnings and the deaths.’
Rupert Sylvester, whose son Roger died after being restrained by eight police, told News Line: ‘We are having a very hard and long struggle to get any justice.
‘The police are well protected by the state, especially the criminal justice system.
‘If you get an unlawful killing verdict in the coroner’s court, when they go to a crown court the judge will overturn an unlawful killing verdict.
‘They did that with my son.
‘There has to be a change in the law, so police officers cannot kill with impunity.
‘We must have some clarity, it is very shameful that after years, we the family have not yet got closure into our son’s death.’
• See Photo Gallery