March 6, 2019


Who killed Blair Peach? Officer E, F, G, H, I or J? 

On Easter Monday Aucklanders will have the chance to hear two of New Zealand’s leading actors immersing themselves in the life and death of New Zealander Blair Peach.

Forty years ago, on April 23, St George’s Day, 1979, a 33-year-old from Napier was murdered.  

This was Blair Peach. He was protesting against a far-right neo-Nazi march through an immigrant London suburb.

His murderer was one of six policemen who attacked the protestors.

No one has ever been charged.

At the coroner’s inquest, the six officers were referred to by the initials above, although their names were well known and plastered on Wanted posters all over London.

In a suppressed internal police investigation the names were listed in order of suspicion.

The startling thing about that order is the one who was most mentioned round New Zealand circles as the killer, officer “F”, PC Chalky White, was listed last.

PC White was known to have kept a selection of coshes in his police locker and Blair Peach died from a blow to the skull made using something other than a standard baton.

Following decades of campaigning by friends and family, the suppressed police investigation was made public and it, and its cross-examination of the six suspects, is at the heart of Who Killed Blair Peach? a unique documentary show to be performed by Michael Hurst and Donogh Rees.

Hurst is fresh from his triumph in the Auckland Theatre Company’s season of Tom Scott’s The Daylight Atheist.

Rees starred with him in Hercules and Xena and did a three-year run on Shortland Street.

Who Killed Blair Peach? will be upstairs at the Grey Lynn RSC, 1 Francis St, Grey Lynn, on Easter Monday, April 22, 7.30pm; one performance only. 

The reading will include scripted accounts of Blair Peach’s life in Napier and then in London where he was a teacher at a special needs school in the East End.

The rise of the far-right National Front in England and the efforts to counter it by socialist groups will be described.

Events on the day of the murder will be laid out; police will be cross-examined.

The audience can then make up its own mind on the killer. And it’s pretty clear who it is.

In 1979 the six officers cross-examined in Who Killed Blair Peach? were members of the Special Patrol Group, the UK’s elite riot squad. All were inside a police van that pulled into Beachcroft Ave, Southall. They jumped out of the van with the intention of dispersing protestors.

Blair Peach was then struck on the head and killed.

Fourteen witnesses saw who did it: a policeman.

The internal police investigation agreed with the witnesses.

The subsequent coroner’s court, however, ruled death by misadventure.

The coroner ruled the internal police report inadmissible, then went further. In the process of directing the jury, he dismissed what he termed as two “extremist” theories of the cause of death.

One extremist theory, he claimed, was that a fellow-protestor bent on creating a martyr could have done it. This extraordinary claim was a pure invention of the coroner, something off the top of his head to balance out the second extremist theory he was about to dismiss—that the police could have done it.

That second theory was the central finding of the police’s own investigation.

Who Killed Blair Peach?

Find the answer with Michael Hurst and Donogh Rees.

Grey Lynn RSC, 1 Francis St, Easter Monday, April 22, 7.30pm.

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