I would just like to take the next few minutes to share some personal memories of my brother in an attempt to transform the ugly images the media and the system has so ‘strategically’ put together to justify his brutal death.

Growing up together at home, I could remember his very loving, caring nature that complemented my naturally bossy manner - even though I was the younger sister. He was the type of child you could never give a sweet or toy too without his request for one for his “baby sister”.

Roger was also a karate freak, a sport that was encouraged by our older brother Bernard who had a black belt at the time.  The only down side to that was he often practiced on me when Bernard wasn’t around, for me, that meant sustaining a good few karate chops over the years.  But I survived them!

As a boy Roger had a very strong lisp, which proved to be very a useful weapon for me to use during our childish verbal exchanges.  Calling him ‘flat nose’ always hit a nerve too! However, you could bet your life he would return fire by calling me ‘cocoa – bean head’ or ‘crocodile skin’.  Thank God he lost his lisp and I grew out of my eczema!

Roger and I enjoyed many childhood years together.  As he entered into his teenage years my brother’s popularity grew tremendously.  So much so, when my time came, I wasn’t known as “Tracey”, I was “Saxon’s sister”.  You could always count on Roger to steal the limelight.  That was our Roger, known I loved by all.

Then came the sibling rivalry years, but what my brother did not know at the time, was he had no chance against “Miss Goodie Two Shoes”!  He would revel at the very rare occasion when I got into strife with Mum and Dad, and that usually was because he’d grassed me up!  So, as I grew older I learned to keep my secrets close to my chest. 

Even when we did fall out, and we did many times.  He would never bear any malice and would always be the first make it up again.  I’m still not sure how he did it, I couldn’t!  This was an outstanding quality that I never had.

Still in his teens, 1 month before his eighteenth my brother fell victim to a vicious knife attack that left him with a wound requiring 26 stitches to his face.  So he had to face his 18th birthday and start his first job with a permanent scar.  This had a devastating impact on the entire family, but most of all Roger. 

Rog became very conscious of his appearance following the scar and was very concerned about the stigma often associated his injury.  His self-confidence gradually deteriorated to a point where he didn’t want to be seen by the outside world.  Shortly after he was diagnosed as depressed.

Yes, my brother did have short spells in hospital and yes, in the early stages of his illness there were times when the family found it difficult to manage.  But all this never hindered Roger from living a perfectly normal life.  He had no more or less problems than the average person and coped remarkably well with them.

Roger even used his own personal experience to help others in his job with Islington Council.  He worked at a mental health drop-in centre for his last five years.  Again he was well liked by all.  Somehow, despite everything my brother managed to maintain a zest for life especially 18 months prior to his death. He often referred to 1999 being “his year”.

Mum and Roger shared a very special affection for each other.  Unlike myself, my brother had a natural, genuine, warm, loving manner that was almost enviable but definitely admirable.  Mum would never admit he was her favourite, but she cared for him deeply – they spoke at least twice a day if not more!

Here we have a brother, son, cousin, nephew, uncle and a friend but ultimately a HUMAN BEING.

I’m not going to explain or justify my brother’s depressive illness.  Many people are victims to depression – 1 in 4 in fact. As far as I know depression is not terminal therefore does not kill. 

However, the system, as always uses excuses like this to justify such incidents.  For example reports of a “big, black, 18 stone, cocaine taking, mad man who causes his own death”.

Well brothers and sisters on January 11th 1999 I can assure you my brother was NOT DEPRESSED, he did NOT HAVE COCAINE IN HIS BODY and did NOT EXCITE HIMSELF TO DEATH, and to quote a fellow Campaign member  “even if cocaine was dripping from his nose that did not kill him”. 

The real issue here is not about depression, drug abuse or all the other mud – sticking negative pictures the media and police have painted to cloud our vision.  It’s about a system that allows peoples children to die at the hands of police and them not be accountable for these deaths.

Here are some more real issues:

The fact that Roger complained to family friends of threats by Tottenham police

The fact that Roger complained to a church Pastor on Sunday 10th January (one day before his death) of constant intimidation and police harassment.

Roger’s own observation of being followed on very night of his death.

On the 11 January 1999 my brother did what many of us do on a Monday morning.  No, in fact he did more.  He made a special early morning call to mum to remind her of Bro B’s birthday, went to work, he came back, he made plans for his tomorrow, Tuesday 12th.  It’s such a shame Roger did not get the opportunity to see through his tomorrow.

 

Tracey Sylvester