Southall, April 23, 1979

35 years ago today, a member of the Metropolitan Police’s Special Patrol Group (SPG) killed Blair Peach, a young teacher from New Zealand, who was taking part in an Anti-Nazi League demonstration against a National Front march through Southall. The SPG was a militarized branch of the Met, and the predecessor of the Territorial Support Group, who are no less violent in their methods. Remember Ian Tomlinson?

There were also dozens of injuries, one of those injured was Clarence Baker, a pacifist and the manager of Misty in Roots, who was left in a coma.

Peach’s murderer was never apprehended, tried or convicted. His name is Alan Murray and he now works as a lecturer in corporate responsibility at Winchester University. He denies murder. Then again, he would. The police always protect their own.

Linton Kwesi Johnson wrote Reggae Fi Peach to tell the story.

Hatful of History has an excellent blog about that day in April 1979. You can read it here.


Filed under 20th century, History, London

5 responses to “Southall, April 23, 1979

  1. beastrabban

    The murder of Blair Peach is notorious. I’ve got a feeling that the brutality meted out by the SPG that day may also have inspired a satirical song on one of the BBC radio shows of the time. I remember one of the music teachers at school being very unimpressed with the SPG, whom he described as ‘a bunch of thugs, basically’. He mentioned to the class that they’d been lampooned in a spoof version of The Bold Gendarmes broadcast that week. This would have been about 1979. The spoof version followed the real song, except for the chorus. After the verse finishing ‘Or little boys that do no harm’, it ended with ‘ We beat them in, we beat them in, we beat them in, because we’re the SPG.’

    • The SPG were thugs. One member of the SPG was found with Nazi memorabilia. I also remember a story of when the SPG depot was visited by inspectors: they found a pickaxe handle. When asked what they were doing with a pickaxe handle, one of them replied “It gets stuff in here and we use it to prop open the door”.

      • beastrabban

        That says a lot. It explains why, at the end of the ‘Constable Savage’ sketch on Not The Nine O’clock News Rowan Atkinson’s inspector, after denouncing him as a bigot for whom there is no place in his force, he then goes on to say ‘I’m transferring you to the SPG.

      • Good sketch and I remember it well. Before ‘Constable Savage’ the image of the friendly bobby a la Dixon of Dock Green persisted.

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