Supplement to Newsletter. Issue 2003-23. June. 06, 2003
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1. BBC News 21 December, 1999
2. Guardian 21 Dec 1999
3. Socialist Worker 6 January 2000

Benefit dance to support Mario Pereira on the 26th April 2003.
The picture shows (From left to right) Caroline Pereira (Sister), Monique Pereira (Mother), Hazel Keirle (Representative from MOJO) and Francis Pereira (Father).

BBC News 21 December, 1999
Two men have been convicted of killing black musician Michael Menson.

Student Mario Pereira, 26, was convicted of murdering Mr Menson, who was set on fire.

Unemployed Barry Charalambous Constantinou, 27, was found guilty of manslaughter but cleared of murder.

The pair, along with Husseyin Abdullah, 50, of Edmonton, north London, were also found guilty of perverting justice by obstructing the police investigation.

Mr Justice Gage will pass sentence on Wednesday.

The victim's mother sobbed in the back of court when the verdict was read out, as friends of Pereira shouted "liars" from the public gallery.

On fire

Mr Menson, 30, was found dazed and naked near the North Circular Road, Edmonton in January 1997. He had been dosed in white spirit and set alight.

The son of a Ghanaian diplomat, Mr Menson had been a successful musician in the 1980s, but had since suffered psychiatric problems.

Investigations into the death were allegedly hampered by early police conclusions that it was a suicide bid.

Members of the Menson family were soon angered when their questions about the course of the police inquiry were not answered.

Fresh inquiry

Four officers were spoken to following an internal review - but that was not until a year after Mr Menson died.

The turning point in the family's campaign was when an inquest jury returned a verdict of "unlawful killing" in September 1998.

The Metropolitan Police launched a fresh inquiry, but failed to bring anyone to justice.

The case was then taken on by the newly-formed Racial and Violent Crimes Taskforce at Scotland Yard in December 1998.

Covert listening devices were planted in Pereira's flat. When the father of a friend remonstrated with Mauritian-born Pereira for what he had done, he replied: "So what? He was black."

Pereira and Constantinou, both from Edmonton, were arrested two years after Mr Menson died.

Cyprus connection

A third man accused of the murder, Ozgay Cevat, 24, fled to Cyprus soon after the attack.

Although the UK does not recognise the self-styled Republic of North Cyprus, lengthy negotiations between the two countries ended with Cevat being jailed for 14 years for manslaughter.

The whole operation had cost £1.2m, with the Cyprus end of the investigation accounting for about £250,000.

Outside the court, Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner John Grieve said: "The family's role had been pivotal and they have been utterly steadfast in the pursuit of justice for Michael Menson.

"It also shows that there isn't anywhere in the world you can go and escape the justice of Scotland Yard."

The chairman of the Society of Black Lawyers, Peter Herbert, said: "The dramatic failure, racism and half truths that characterised the first inquiry must now be the subject of an urgent investigation by the Cambridge constabulary.

"This post-Lawrence racism must result in police officers facing the disciplinary consequences of their actions."

Student found guilty of Michael Menson murder
Guardian 21 Dec 1999

Student Mario Pereira was today found guilty at the Old Bailey of the human torch murder of black musician Michael Menson.
His co-defendant, unemployed Charalambous Constantinou was found not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter.

Both men, from Edmonton, north London, had denied murdering Mr Menson, 30, who was found by police on fire, staggering in a London street on January 28, 1997.

Police at first failed to treat Mr Menson's death as murder, believing that he had set fire to himself, the court had heard.

Mr Menson died in hospital after suffering terrible burns which covered 30% of his body.

Case history

By the time he died in February 1997, Mr Menson had told four family members and friends from his hospital bed that he was injured in an attack.

But it took police nearly two years before they finally agreed with what the family had always maintained - that Mr Menson was killed by a violent racist gang.

A criminal investigation was not launched for 12 hours until the victim's brother, Kwesi Menson, told police that Michael had said from his hospital bed that he had been attacked.

Even after the area was sealed off, police failed to interview Mr Menson in hospital before he died on February 13, the family said.

By that time, one of the killers, Ozgay Cevat, who had been due to face trial in Britain over a separate attack, had fled to the Turkish-run Republic Northern Cyprus, where he thought he would avoid the reach of justice.

Members of the Menson family soon realised that all was not well and were angered when their questions about the course of the police inquiry were not answered.

Four officers were spoken to following an internal review and given advice - but that was not until a year after Mr Menson died.

Kwesi Menson said: "We were told initially that they had so many leads that they didn't need to do any appeals. That moved to no leads, no information and no-one else was involved."

Despite taking hundreds of statements, police continued to say they did not know if Mr Menson had set fire to himself or was attacked by a gang.

The inquest

The turning point in the family's campaign was when an inquest jury returned a verdict of "unlawful killing" in September 1998.

The Metropolitan Police issued a statement admitting that serious mistakes had been made and regretting that for the first 12 hours of the investigation, officers believed that Mr Menson had set fire to himself.

The force had also set up an internal inquiry looking into the actions by four supervising officers - but three of those concerned had retired or were on the point of doing so.

After the inquest the Menson family had a meeting with home secretary Jack Straw, who was said to be "visibly moved" by their arguments.

A new inquiry

The Metropolitan Police announced a new inquiry. After a flawed initial investigation, then the failure by a major investigation team to bring anyone to justice, the case was taken on by the newly-formed racial and violent crimes taskforce at Scotland Yard.

Its head, deputy assistant commissioner John Grieve, said immediately that Michael Menson's death was a murder.

Detective chief inspector Kevin Davis took over the inquiry on December 4 1998 and, with 12 experienced detectives, looked again at nearly 300 statements and more than 1,500 names which had emerged.

The documents included an interview with Cevat in Northern Cyprus - he told officers that he had heard rumours about what had happened. But Cevat refused to talk to the officers again.


The new team worked towards the high-profile 150th programme of Crimewatch at the end of January 1999 on which members of the Menson family appeared. It was the first time a family had appeared on the show.

Police posted leaflets around the area of the murder where they knew the suspects were living to publicise the programme and to try to ensure that they were watching.

The main suspect, Mario Pereira, was put under surveillance. Police believe he met Harry Constantinou and went back to his flat where they watched the Crimewatch programme. Covert listening devices were then put into the flat.

In early February, the three suspects still in Britain met and discussed the matter - which convinced police that they had the right people.

In one recording, on February 14, Constantinou told Husseyin Abdullah: "He [Pereira] started saying 'Oh let's do him' and all that shit, going nigger and all that shit, so they drove, err, Ozzie got out the car and he tried to light his jacket, but it didn't work, so they went back to Mario's house, got some fuel, spirit or something, went back to him."

Abdullah said: "You know what that is, do you know what that is?"

Constantinou replied: "That's murder."

That same day police learned of the car used in the murder and they started a "hearts and minds" campaign, personally handing letters to those linked with the suspects to persuade them to come forward and give vital evidence.

A few days later, those people were re-interviewed. Two of the witnesses who eventually gave evidence "cried their eyes out" when they finally completed their statements, such was the relief at having unburdened themselves.

Officers were forced to move in on March 9 when Constantinou spotted a video device put into his flat only the day before - police feared the men might flee the country.

The Cyprus campaign

Only after the arrests did the police attention turn to Cevat in Northern Cyprus.

Cevat fled there soon after Mr Menson was attacked and set on fire in a London street. He was arrested by the authorities there for an unrelated charge of causing grievous bodily harm.

While awaiting trial, the Northern Cyprus authorities became aware that Cevat was wanted in the UK in connection with Michael Menson's death.

Britain has no extradition treaty with Northern Cyprus and no compulsion on its government to act. But in this case the authorities decided to co-operate.

A number of witnesses had come forward in London identifying Cevat as the third man in the attack on Mr Menson.

It was strong evidence, which police believed would justify his arrest had he been in England.

Knowing there was no way of extraditing him, they entered straight into negotiations with police in Northern Cyprus to see if there was another way of bringing him back to face trial.

The Northern Cyprus authorities sent a high-ranking police officer to Britain this year, who informed the British there was a law in Northern Cyprus by which someone who commits an offence abroad, and for which he could be jailed for two years or more, could be tried in Northern Cyprus.

As a result senior British officers delivered copies of all their paperwork to Northern Cyprus in May this year.

The authorities there thought there was a case and were prepared to prosecute.

They wanted to interview witnesses in Britain and sent a team here to see them. British officers went back to Northern Cyprus to help prepare the trial.

Thirteen witnesses - police and civilian - travelled to Northern Cyprus for the preliminary hearing and 32, including two members of the Menson family, gave evidence at the actual trial.

Ironically, because Northern Cyprus is still a breakaway state, they had to travel back to the south of the island each day.

It was the longest trial ever held in the north and it accounted for £250,000 of the £1.2 million costs of the case.

After sustained high-level discussions and unheard of co-operation between the two countries, Cevat was arrested and jailed by authorities in Northern Cyprus for 14 years for the manslaughter of Michael Menson.

The family

Head of the racial and violent crimes taskforce at Scotland Yard John Grieve paid tribute to the Menson family's role in keeping the case alive. He said: "They have been entirely steadfast in their determination to bring those responsible for his murder to justice.

"Their campaigning role was pivotal and can be seen as a model for keeping an investigation in the public mind."

Socialist Worker 6 January 2000
MICHAEL MENSON was murdered. We now know this, but no thanks to the police. Mario Pereira and Harry Charalambous Constantinou were jailed at the Old Bailey on 21 December 1999 for killing the black musician. Another man, Ozgay Cevat, had already been jailed in Cyprus for Michael's murder.

Michael was set on fire by the three men in January 1997 as he waited for a bus in north London. He died of his horrendous burns two weeks later. The day after Michael died a London inquest jury returned a verdict of "unlawful killing" in the case of Stephen Lawrence. Yet it is clear that nothing had changed in the police's treatment of black murder victims. All the mistakes and assumptions made by the Metropolitan Police in the Lawrence case were repeated in the Menson case. Later on they would be repeated again in the Ricky Reel case.

After the Old Bailey trial John Grieve of the Metropolitan Police's Race and Violent Crimes Task Force tried to claim some credit for solving the Menson murder. It was he who had secured the convictions after bugging Constantinou's flat. The bug caught Pereira and Constantinou discussing the murder and using racist language to describe their victim. After the Old Bailey verdict Grieve paid tribute to the family, saying, "Their campaign was really pivotal, a model of keeping an investigation in the public mind."

But it was not "the public" that Michael's brothers and sisters had to battle against. It was the Metropolitan Police they had to push all the way. Right up until an inquest jury in September 1998 unanimously delivered a verdict of unlawful killing, the police told the family that Michael had set fire to himself. This was despite Michael telling police who arrived on the scene that he had been set alight. He also told nurses the same thing. He told his family he had been attacked. The family told the police, yet officers never even took a statement from Michael, despite being urged to do so.

The police never cordoned off the area where Michael had been attacked, so there were no forensic clues. In fact they didn't treat the area as a crime scene at all. In a letter to the family a week before the inquest, Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Townsend told the family, "Despite a very thorough investigation we are still uncertain about how Michael came to be found on fire." At the start of the inquest the police insisted, "The position today is there is not one bit of evidence to point to it being a crime. We are in a position 18 months on of not knowing what happened."

All through the inquest the police pushed like mad to try and convince the jury Michael had set fire to himself, even though every bit of evidence that came up pointed in the other direction. The police even attacked their own witnesses, who showed that it was not possible for Michael to have set fire to himself. One forensic scientist who specialised in fire investigations, James Munday, told the inquest, "At the very early stage in my investigation I informed the police that as far as I was concerned they should treat this as a suspicious circumstance."

After the inquest verdict the Met were forced to reopen the case. It was in the middle of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry and a week before Metropolitan Police commissioner Paul Condon was due to give evidence. But massive questions remain. No officer has yet been formally disciplined for mucking up the Menson murder case. All but one of the senior investigators had either retired or were in the process of retiring by the time the inquest started. And how did John Grieve zero in so quickly on Michael's murderers? It seems likely that their names had already come up early on after Michael was set on fire, yet the investigating officers did not follow them up.

But the most frightening issue is how the police treated the initial attack on Michael. As his sister Essie Menson said after the Old Bailey trial, "We felt that by not investigating [the murder] the police were almost sending a message to these people that it's fine, you go and burn a black man in the street and nothing is going to be done about it. It felt like they [the police] were saying you don't matter-Michael doesn't matter."

Given the fact that the police have rejected and resisted the findings of the Lawrence inquiry, everyone should be asking how many more Lawrences, Reels or Mensons are still to come?

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