Calls for public inquiry after Jay Abatan's death

The brother of a City high-flier who died after an unprovoked attack in Brighton more than 15 years ago claims significant facts from the investigation were kept from his family by police.

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Justice for Jay: family demands the truth

The family of a father-of-two, killed in Brighton 15 years ago, are calling for a full public inquiry into the unsolved case.

Jay Abatan - who was 42 - was attacked outside The Ocean Rooms nightclub on Morley Street in January 1999 as he waited for a taxi. He died from head injuries five days later. No-one has ever been convicted.

Jay's brother says he's lost faith in Sussex Police after hearing there was a serving officer in the club that night. Tonight the police told us there is no evidence to suggest the off-duty officer was aware of the attack or involved in any way. Malcolm Shaw has our report.


Jay Abatan's family say police withheld facts

Jay Abatan Credit: Meridian

The brother of a City high-flier who died after an unprovoked attack in Brighton more than 15 years ago claims significant facts from the investigation were kept from his family by police.

Michael Abatan says he can no longer trust Sussex Police after discovering a serving officer was with a group of people who allegedly attacked his brother Jay Abatan outside a Brighton nightclub in January 1999.

The 42-year-old tax specialist from Eastbourne, East Sussex, was assaulted while waiting for a taxi outside the now defunct Ocean Rooms with his brother Michael.

The father-of-two, who worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers, hit his head on the pavement and suffered a fractured skull which led to swelling and bleeding in his brain. He died in hospital five days later.

Two men, Graham Curtis and Peter Bell, were arrested by Sussex Police within 24 hours of the attack but manslaughter charges were later dropped because of a lack of evidence.

They were instead charged with affray and causing actual bodily harm to Michael Abatan, but were acquitted.

Sussex Police say "there is absolutely no evidence" to suggest that a serving police officer was among his attackers.

"Senior detectives have met with the Abatan family on a number of occasions over the years in order to respond to their concerns. The last of these meetings was in July 2013, which was also attended by the Crown Prosecution Service and Sir Peter Bottomley MP. At this time it was explained that there were no grounds to re-open an investigation in the absence of further evidence.

"Sussex Police’s 1999 investigation into Mr Abatan’s death was first reviewed by Essex Police, resulting in a second re-investigation by Sussex Police. Following complaints by the Abatan family, the [then] Police Complaints Authority then supervised an independent inquiry led by Avon and Somerset Constabulary.

"The initial investigation into Mr Abatan's death has been subject to considerable, well-documented scrutiny. Its shortcomings, for which former Chief Constable Joe Edwards personally apologised to Jay’s family in 2005, were highlighted in an independent review that resulted in the second investigation and review. At their request the family were provided with a detailed account of this investigation.

"There has never been any suggestion by the independent reviews or the coroner of institutional racism.

"The Force has completely updated and reorganised the way it investigates both major crime and critical incidents since 1999. Significant changes to our investigative practices include a dedicated Major Crime Team, accredited senior investigating officers and trained family liaison officers. These arrangements were closely examined and approved by HM Inspectors of Constabulary.

"Sussex Police has accepted that mistakes were made during the initial investigation into the unlawful killing of Jay Abatan, and regret that nobody has yet been convicted of this cowardly attack, even though two men were charged in connection with it. We have apologised publicly and often for the failings in 1999, but reinforce that current investigative practices are vastly different. " "We remain committed to investigating any new information that will assist in convicting those responsible for Jay's death."

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