In the early morning of September 28 1985, armed police raided 22 Normandy Road in Brixton. As Cherry Groce rose from bed to see what was going on, she was shot, leaving her paralysed for the rest of her life and sparking the Brixton uprising of 1985. In this episode of The Justice Gap Podcast, the author and Cherry’s son Lee Lawrence speaks to Calum McCrae.
‘The last thing I remember seeing was my mum lying there, wounded,’ Lee Lawrence, who was just 11 years old at the time, tells Calum McCrae. He recalls see the lead detective, Inspector Douglas Lovelock, who was subsequently acquitted of maliciously wounding his mother. ‘I was enraged,’ he recalls. ‘Lovelock turned around and pointed the gun at me and said “Someone better shut this fucking kid up”.’ This month Lee Lawrence won the Costa biography award for his memoir, The Louder I Will Sing.
Cherry Groce survived until 2011, but Lawrence Lee describes the years she suffered in between as a ‘slow death’. In his book, he details the fight to finally hear the truth about the botched raid recognised. A truth that was very clearly spelled out in an unpublished internal police report from 1986.
Despite countless hurdles, he continued out of sheer love for his mother. ‘The greatest gift I could give to her in her absence was for what happened to her to be recognised for what it really was. It almost felt like I was born for this.’
To the family’s relief, the jury at the inquest into her death in 2014 held: ‘Dorothy Groce was shot by police during a planned, forced entry raid at her home, and her subsequent death was contributed to by failures in the planning and implementation of the raid.’
The Guardian describes Lawrence Lee’s memoir as ‘part love letter to his mother and part instruction manual on how to fight for justice’ (The Guardian) – won the Costa Biography award. You can find the book here.
Listen to the powerful conversation above, or wherever you get your podcasts.
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