Kevan Thakrar begins his defence
The trial opened on the 17th October in Newcastle Crown court with Kevan charged with two counts of attempted murder and one count of wounding with intent; of three prison officers at HMP Frankland. Kevan denied all charges.
Five security guards surrounded Kevan as he entered the high security, glass screened dock in Court 1 at Newcastle Crown Court, as the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) outlined the charges. CPS barrister constantly harping on about his original conviction; they said Kevan had armed himself with the broken end of a 285ml glass bottle of hot pepper sauce, with which he attacked the three officers, his clear intention was to kill all of them.
Prison officers called to the witness box; when asked about injuries to Kevan in particular when they were shown pictures (above) of bruises to Kevan's face, which Kevan was adamant, was caused by them. All denied ever seeing any such bruises and had not the slightest idea how he had got them. Evidence against Kevan lasted for four and a half days, ending midday on Friday 21st October.
Later that morning, Kevan Thakrar opening his defence, accused prison officers of a "stitch-up" intended to ensure he spent the rest of his life behind bars. Kevan claimed there was a conspiracy of silence among HMP Frankland prison staff with regard to assaults by prison officers on inmates. The former student and shop assistant told the jury at Newcastle Crown Court Frankland prison officers operated according to a principal of "see no evil, hear no evil" when it came to their colleagues' "abuse of power". He said he was denied food and sleep the night before he used a broken bottle of hot pepper sauce to defend himself against prison officers Craig Wylde, Claire Lewis and Neil Walker at Frankland High Security Prison, in March last year.
Kevan said: "It is obviously wrong what happened, the individuals that have been hurt, and I am sorry for that, but it should not have come to that. If you put an animal in a cage and you poke it, poke it and poke it and then unlock the door it is not going to just sit there is it?" He accused wardens of planting the empty bottle in his cell in the hope he would use it to harm himself. He claimed it was part of a plot to prevent him from attending court to appeal against his conviction in 2008 for the murders of three men and attempted murder of two women in a drug dispute.
Cross-examining Kevan, prosecutor Tim Gittins said Kevan had tried to kill officers Wylde and Lewis with the bottle. Gittens said: "It had chunky, thick glass and it was empty, ready to be made into a weapon. It was a nice, handy size to be used as a weapon, as a shank. You made it into a very effective weapon, one capable of inflicting fatal violence, didn't you?"
Kevan replied: "I was not in control. I was not thinking right. You're trying to imply I was capable of making rational decisions having not slept, having not eaten, and having all those thoughts running round in my head. I had been awake all night. I was ready to go home in a few weeks after my appeal. Why would I do that? I believed I was going home. I should have gone home."
The court heard Kevan might have been suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder at the time of the attack, as a result of his experiences in the British penal system since being locked up in 2007. He denies all charges, saying he lashed out at the guards in self-defence because he believed he was about to be attacked himself.
Officers have denied a "culture of racism" at the County Durham jail. But Kevan refutes this he said he was told by Frankland officers, he had to be either "white or a Muslim". I was called a "Paki beast" by guards who he claimed had plotted to attack him following a row over prison privileges. He said there was a split of about 10% black or ethnic minority to 90% white inmates at the jail, and just one black prison guard, who was referred to behind his back by the other wardens as "Officer Darkie". It was "total nonsense" to deny there was a culture of racism at Frankland, then and now. He said: "There was racism between the Muslim and non-Muslim inmates and between the Muslim inmates and the guards. It was fuelled by the staff."
Prosecution shoot themselves in the foot
Consultant psychologist Roy Shuttleworth a Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) witness, whom the CPS declined to call and was called by Kevan's defence. Said that when Thakrar lashed out, he was in the grip of severe depression and was suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Experiencing symptoms of anxiety, rage, fear and depression as well as suffering flashbacks to prison beatings and nightmares. He went on to say, the very distinctive sights, sounds and smells of the prison intensified the former shop assistant's illness and led him to behave violently. Shuttleworth said: "It's a One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest approach to the situation."
When the defence rested the witness, the court was treated to the theatre of the unreal, the Crown Prosecution Service bizarrely cross examining their own witness and trying in vain to rubbish his analysis of Kevan, the analysis that they had paid for. It was all to no avail, the expert witness was expert and no amount of harassment, yes, harassment for that is what it was, to try and demolish their own witness, came to no avail.
It was now the turn of witnesses who were in HMP Frankland at the time of the incident; but now dispersed to other prisons, to give evidence for Kevan. First witness up was brought to the dock in handcuffs, but no challenge was made to this for obvious reasons. The next batch of witnesses were all by video link, with one witness getting cut off midway through his testimony. Two of the main witness for Kevan, currently in HMP Frankland, declined to give evidence; Kevan feels they were leaned on.
Today saw Eric Allison, Guardian Crime Correspondent in the witness box for Kevan, again prosecution barrister trying to rubbish anything and everything.
Kevin Nevers currently doing life, gave evidence for Kevan. Nevers was in HMP Full Sutton in March 2004, when *Arif Hussain died. Nevers told the coroner's inquiry team into Arif's death, that two days before he died, Arif was beaten up in his cell by six or seven staff after he had spat at a doctor. He said that Arif had been 'begging staff for help' and that on his last night complained that he was losing his sight. Kevin maintained that staff had repeatedly taunted Arif during his last days, calling him a 'fat Paki' and 'a terrorist'.
No yes or no answers were forthcoming from Nevers, without a full political explanation of what he was going to say.
The court will be in recess; Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday of next week and trial will resume on Thursday 3rd November.
Michael O'Brien, in his new book 'Prisons Exposed' due to be published in April 2012, details his experiences in HMP Frankland, in 1997, he saw several officers wearing National Front emblems.
Kevan sends his heartfelt thanks to all who have wrote to him at HMP Durham, especially those who sent legal briefings on the use of handcuffs at trial.
Letters of Support/Solidarity to:
* Death at Full Sutton - FRFI, Issue 186