Cherry Groce lies in her hospital bed after being shot during a police raid at her home in Brixton, south London
Cherry Groce inquest: son wants answers 29 years after mum was shot
Lee Lawrence hopes to find out the truth about the police raid in 1985 that left his mother paralysed from the chest down
The Guardian, Sunday 29 June 2014
Lee Lawrence says he has been waiting for 29 years to get answers from the Metropolitan police about why they shot his innocent mother Cherry Groce in 1985, leaving her paralysed from the chest down.
Officers raided the family’s Brixton home on 28 September 1985, searching for Groce’s son, Michael. He was not there, and did not in fact live there, but during the raid Groce, a mother of eight, was accidentally shot.
On Monday an inquest opens into her death in April 2011 and Lawrence hopes at last to find out the truth about the day his and his family’s life changed forever, with new information about the police operation expected to emerge at the hearing.
The incident sparked riots in Brixton that saw dozens of civilians and 10 police officers injured. Police marksman Inspector Douglas Lovelock was cleared of malicious and unlawful grievous bodily harm in 1987. Earlier this year the Met revealed it had apologised to the family for the shooting of Groce, who died in April 2011.
Lawrence, 39, was just 11 when he witnessed his mother being shot. “I was curled up in my mum’s bed, for me the safest place in the world, when I heard a loud banging, which must have been the police breaking the door down. My mum went to see what was going on and that was when the police shot her.
"I remember screaming, ‘What have you done to my mum?’"
"I heard my mum saying: ‘I can’t move my legs, I can’t breathe, I think I’m going to die.’ At that moment everything in my life changed forever."
Before the shooting Lawrence had been a carefree boy, playing outside and riding his BMX bike with his friends. He had been aware of racism from white skinhead gangs in the area but had never thought about racism from the police. In fact, inspired by cop shows like The Professionals and Starsky & Hutch, he dreamed of becoming a police officer when he grew up. “I wanted to get the bad guys,” he said. …
… Lawrence has many concerns about the Met although he says that he believes there are both good and bad officers. “When I was in my teens I used to get picked up by the police for things I hadn’t done. They would tell me I fitted the description of someone who had just committed a crime and that sort of thing. Once when I was 17 I was put into a police cell. A police officer opened a flap in the cell door and said: ‘Are you Cherry Groce’s son?’ When I replied that I was he said: ‘Pity she didn’t die.’
"We are looking for the Met to prove to us that they have changed in terms of transparency and accountability. We can only talk about change that we can see and feel and I’m not feeling it yet." …