Home Print Article Close This Window
Without The Observer, the cat’s out the bag
Winston Smith

How does a service such as the Metropolitan police, famous for its racism, go about getting the public to believe its claims about links between ethnic minorities and certain crimes? It gets the Observer, a newspaper known for its liberal anti-racist posture, to make them on its behalf.

In “Gun crime spreads ‘like a cancer’ across Britain”, Tony Thompson, crime correspondent of the Observer sister paper, the Guardian, repeats the often told lie that gun crime is an ethnic minority canker in an English rose (1).

Thompson article, published in the Observer, is a typical piece of police propaganda dressed up as news. It can be read in two halves. The first half characterises gun crime as an ethnic minority phenomenon. While the second half reflects on the crossover of gun-crime to white communities.

In his characterization of gun crime as an ethnic minority phenomenon, Thomson draws on the conviction of Shabir Hussain and Mohammed Shabir in Birmingham. The duo was jailed for 11 years. They were allegedly guilty of converting blank firing pistols into “lethal weapons”.

Thompson describes the duo as the “armourers to the local underworld”. Apparently, they supplied gangs from Bristol to Manchester with 170 guns”.

The duo’s armoury represented the “tip of the iceberg”: “hundred of similar gun factories” are churning out lethal weapons. The police recover only a few of these weapons.

As examples of gun crime cross over to white communities, Thompson points to shootings in Hoddesdon and Nottingham and identifies the suspects as white. He did not however, identify the racial profile of the victims of those shootings. They were white.

Thompson then quotes Assistant Chief Constable Nick Tofiluk, of the West Midland Police. White criminals are involved in the illegal use of firearms and the supply of illicit drugs, confirms the local bobby. Such an admission is nothing short of a road to Damascus experience for a police force that is knee deep in the practice of stirring racial hatred by stereotyping Jamaicans as criminals.

In using comments made by the police to counter the usual stereotype of gun crime as a black phenomenon, Thompson seeks to present his article as a balanced piece of journalism. However on closer reading, the propagandist sleight of hand becomes apparent.

The article subtext is gun crime is an ethnic minority phenomenon that has crossed over into white communities. The article’s first half contains that subtext from which the second half does not depart.

In the first half Thompson reinforces the stereotype of gun crime as ethnic minorities phenomenon by linking the deaths of Bates and King to the Birmingham duo. Although the killers are white, Hussain and Shabir supplied the guns.

Thompson is not explicit about drawing the link between the Nottingham and Hoddesdon shootings and the Brummie armourers.

But he achieves his aim by the juxtaposition of unrelated information, which leads the reader to draw the obvious conclusion. For example, in a one-sentence paragraph, Thompson claims: “They [Hussain and Shabir] produced more than 170 guns and sold them to gangs from Bristol to Birmingham”.

In the very next paragraph he says: “One week after the jailing, the murder of Nottingham jewellery shop owner Marian Bates, the gunning down of Hertfordshire [Hoddesdon] gangster Dave King, ….., have brought the issue of gun crime to the top of the political agenda.”

Hertfordshire and Nottingham come within the catchment area of “Bristol to Manchester”. The inference is Hussain and Shabir customers did the killings.

A further inference is inescapable with regards to the Byfield homicide. Thompson conflates it with that of Bates and King’s. Of the three homicides, Byfield is the one whose location he does not give. The reader is left to assume, like the others, it took place between Bristol and Birmingham. When in fact Toni Ann Byfield was shot in London.

A similar juxtaposition of unrelated information in order to create a false impression can be seen at work in a Daily Mail article, which also deals with Byfield, Bates and King’s homicides (2).

In one paragraph, the article refers to an interview given to The Guardian by John Coles, chief of the Metropolitan police anti-black Operation Trident. Coles claimed Jamaican violence was spreading to the shires (3).

In the very next paragraph, the article refers to the Hoddesdon shooting.

Here are the two paragraphs as they appeared in the Daily Mail's article.

“Earlier this year a senior Scotland Yard detective warned that so-called Yardie-style violence was spreading to the shires as a result of crack down in major cities".

"The latest attack happened in the centre of Hoddesdon”.

The implication contained within the second paragraph is Coles’ warning, mentioned in the first paragraph, has come to fruition.

The Hoddesdon shooting was neither related to “Yardie-style violence” nor carried out by blacks criminals.

However, like the Mail’s article, Thompson is about giving a false impression about the reality of firearms related violence.

Take the Byfield homicide. Thompson airbrushes out Bertram Byfield, who was killed along with his daughter, Toni Ann, at their home in Kensal Green, northwest London on September 14, 2003.

By contrast since their conviction, Thompson has made no links between Mitchell and William Greenwood and any firearms related homicides. The Greenwoods, a white father and son outfit, were convicted of illegally supplying at least 3,000 deactivated guns to criminals. These guns included AK47 assault rifles and handguns. The pair was based in South Wingfield, Derbyshire (4).

Police put the Greenwoods customers catchments area to include Manchester to London, as well as Northern Ireland.

Marian Bates was killed with a single bullet from a handgun in Nottingham. David King was shot with an AK47. The Byfields lived in London.

Given that the Birmingham duo did not trade in deactivated AK47s, it is more likely the Greenwoods supplied the guns used to kill Byfield, Bates and King.

But Thompson, he who describes Jamaicans as natural born killers (5), would not earn his thirty-pieces as a Metropolitan police propagandist by drawing such conclusions.

winston smith © Blaqfair 1984


(1) Thompson, Tony (5/10/03) “Gun crime spreads ‘like a cancer’ across Britain” The Observer

(2) Hall, Tim and Taylor, Ben (04/10/03) “Gun Law Britain” The Daily Mail

(3) Hopkins, Nick (14/06/03) “Drug gang warning by police” The Guardian

(4) Bennetto, Jason (27/01/04) “Father and son are convicted of selling deactivated firearms to gangsters” The Independent

(5) Thompson, Tony (21/11/2003) “Without a gun, you’re dead” The Guardian