By ‘DI’ Blacksheep
The confirmation that the police inquiry into the mysterious death of Alexander Litvinenko included a visit to the Emirates Stadium (where they found traces of the radioactive plutonium that killed him) got me thinking about football-related crime scenarios. I am a historian that specializes in the history of crime and punishment (although usually crime that happened in the 18th and 19th centuries, well before modern football became as popular as it is today).
In recent years the rapper Reckz (real name Ryan Gray) was stabbed outside the stadium by Taylor Fernandes-Nelson, who was later jailed for 15 years for the murder. In 2012 at Westfield Shopping centre a gang fight ended up with Nii-Azu Kojo-Smith (19) being charged and convicted of killing a Liam Woodards who was an unconnected and entirely innocent bystander. Kojo-Smith was apparently a promising young football at Arsenal who had been involved in coaching others.
You might not know that Chuba Akpom’s cousin, Antoin (20) was killed in a street attack in Leicester in September 2013.
Tony and I recall an incident last year when we passed a house on our way to the ground that was guarded by police. I later discovered that Richard Conroy was charged with shooting Leeanne Foley, a 32 year-old woman thought to be his partner. The case is yet to be formally heard by a court.
When I used to stand on the North Bank in the late 1970s and early ‘80s one of games I least looked forward to was West Ham. I remember being kicked down the steps out of the ground by a young Hammer who objected to my ‘lefty’ pin badges as much as my Arsenal scarves and this post reminds us just how brutal the 80s were for hooliganism. It wasn’t just ‘a bit of a laugh’, people (like John Dickenson) died.
But to end on a lighter note the real ‘crime’ associated with the the club is the murder of a footballer who dropped dead on the pitch during a friendly between Arsenal and the Trojans. Of course this was a fictional murder, which formed the plot of the Arsenal Stadium Mystery (Dir. Thorold Dickinson, 1939).
The film stars Lesley Banks as Detective Inspector Slade and the Trojans were played by Brentford FC. Many of the Arsenal team (including such legends as Cliff Bastin and Eddie Hapgood) play roles in the film and George Allison has a speaking part. He says “It’s one-nil to the Arsenal. That’s the way we like it”.
The ‘live’ football was recorded during Arsenal’s final game of the 1938/9 season so was actually the last match before the outbreak of war. I’ve got a re-mastered copy and it is a decent movie and worth a watch if can see it.
So, in true ‘Crime-watch’ style, do remember the Emirates is a very safe place (despite the occasional idiot with a flare!); 60,000 people troop in and out of the stadium 30 or so times a year with no trouble – so don’t have nightmares!
but keep ‘em peeled…
All the Arsenal pre-seasons from 1990 to 2014 remembered- with more regularly being added, on the Arsenal History Society site.