The late great English writer Anthony Burgess, author of ‘A Clockwork Orange’, was born in a Manchester suburb, not far from where the Indian student Anuj Bidve was murdered on Boxing Day.
Exactly 40 years ago, the film version of Burgess’ novella on social decay was withdrawn — by none other than its famous director Stanley Kubrick. The film’s terrifying scenes of motiveless savagery had let to copycat crimes, it was claimed. This week a London jury convicted two men of killing black teenager Stephen Lawrence in Eltham, southeast London, 18 years ago. It was an infamous racist killing — a mob of feral white youths set upon Stephen and knifed him to death. The only motive was hatred of Stephen’s colour of skin.
Asked to comment, three black MPs from London immediately referred to another killing that took place some 300 km northwest of London — Bidve’s murder in Salford showed that racist killings weren’t a thing of the past, said Diane Abbott, shadow business secretary Chuka Umanna and David Lammy.
“The fact is that racism and racist attacks are still happening in this country,” said Stephen’s mother Doreen Lawrence. “The police should not use my son’s name to say that we can move on.” Abbott was more direct: Let’s hope we don’t have to wait for another 18 years for Bidve’s killer to be convicted, she said.
We don’t know who killed Anuj and why. A man who calls himself Psycho Stapleton has been charged but he had a companion who is still at large. Police are treating it as a ‘hate crime’ based on the perception of some people in the local community.
Perception is important, and winning the trust of locals is key to gaining conviction in such cases. In the Lawrence case, it is said, many locals — including at the Brook housing estate, where one of the killer lived — knew who the attackers were.
Now, police in Salford have issued appeals for information from residents of another housing estate, Ordsall. There’s even a reward of £50,000.
No one likes to admit they are living among racists but silence makes them complicit. Ordsall in 2012 is saying much the same thing as Eltham in 1998: ‘Don’t tar us all with the same brush; some of us are deeply ashamed of what happened.’
There is a sense of shame in Salford — but police have a job to do, and protestations are meaningless unless someone steps up with information on the men who killed an innocent foreigner on their patch.