News that Christopher Alder’s body still is still in the mortuary 11 years after his family thought they had buried him has shocked the community.
It shows that even in death, racism and injustice continue to haunt our people.
Christopher, a black man and former paratrooper died in a Hull police station in 1998 surrounding by mocking police officers. He died tragically in what can only be described as the most degrading and disgusting of circumstances.
Christopher’s family, who had suffered grievously during a long struggle for justice, thought they had laid Christopher to rest. On Sunday 6th November they were faced with the terrible news that Christopher’s body has been found lying in a Hull mortuary 11 years after they thought they had buried him.
One can only imagine the pain and anguish they must now be going through. To have endured a long and bitter fight for the truth to uncover exactly what happened to Christopher and believing that they had laid him to rest with dignity and compassion: something he never received from the Hull police officers that stood idly by and watched him die.
Racism and or incompetence have conspired to deny the Alder family that most basic of human needs when faced with tragic death: to lay our loved ones to rest. They have been robbed of that most fundamental of human decencies, a dignified funeral surrounded by the family friends and people who loved Christopher.
There will be bitter and angry words spoken in many households throughout the country. In the light of a huge increase in the number of black people who have died in police custody, this news will devastate all those concerned with justice.
For the Alder family to have suffered so grievously once is a tragedy. That they have now to face the painful reality that their loved one has not been laid to rest is simply beyond belief.
In the wider context of this issue, all over the country black communities are becoming increasingly angry at the huge increases in the number of black men dying in police custody. Smiley Culture, Kingsley Burrell, Demetre Fraser, Mark Duggan are all now familiar names.
The failure of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) to satisfy the search for the truth in all these cases and that of Christopher Adler is perceived to be a double injustice.
The recent heavy handed policing by the Metropolitan Police Service of the annual march by the families of those who have died in custody was a further calculated insult to all those families in attendance.
What this demonstrates is that racism and injustice are capable of haunting families beyond even death itself. The Alders will always have lived with the legacy of his death but now have their final dignity ripped away from them. They now have to live with the knowledge that they stood at the grave and shed their tears of grief whilst burying a complete stranger and that must be painful beyond words. This is a tragedy for two families both of whom are now plunged into anger and despair.
To have the unique spiritual comfort of knowing that Christopher lies in peace, desecrated, to have their process of grieving violently disturbed amounts to heinous injustices of the vilest kind.
Hull City Council has launched an investigation and let’s hope that the Alder family receive some answers this time. The Council should also face legal action for costs and compensations. Let us be clear: no amount of compensation can take away the pain felt by the Adler family and no amount of apologising can numb the sense of shock and outrage.
Having been robbed of justice once, Hull City Council have conspired to rob the family of their final moments and precious final farewells and having done so, forced them to relive once again, the awful circumstances surrounding his death and preparing to say their final farewells 10 years on.
By Lee Jasper