Colin Grainger

Killed in the line of duty: Twenty years on – our debt to Pc Nina Mackay

It was – and still is – one of the most shocking crimes in the history of Newham.

Policewoman Nina Mackay paid with her life as she tried to help colleagues.

She was the first woman officer killed in an operational raid.

The incident in which she died happened when officers from Forest Gate Police Station went to a flat in Arthingworth Street, Stratford looking for a man, on October 24, 1997.

When they discovered the suspect was in they called for back up from the Territorial Support Group.

Nina and her colleagues moved in to arrest the man when she was stabbed with a knife. She was rushed to hospital where doctors fought to save her for two hours but she died.

For journalists it was a time to write with emotion and accuracy to relate a tragedy that rocked the borough, but also united us in grief.

It seems barely credible that it was 20 years ago that the 25-year-old officer was killed.

It is also hard to take in that the man who killed her and who was “detained indefinitely in a psychiatric hospital has been free for five years.

Nina Alexandra Mackay came from a family with a long history of policing and they have remained dignified not only at the time of her killing, but in the passing years.

The tragedy came at a time when I was Deputy Editor at the Newham Recorder and the death of the vibrant young woman shocked the community.

Her passing reminded us of how much we owe to officers like her  – and the reaction of people throughout the country also put that into perspective.

We are fortunate that today there are still young people like Nina Mackay prepared to live with the risks and danger daily so that the rest of us can exist in relative safety.

The Met Police Commissioner at the time, Sir Paul Condon paid tribute to her and said she was admired by her colleagues. “Tragically, she paid the ultimate price for her bravery,” he said.

Her devastated colleagues returned to work just a few days after her killing – because they believed that is what she would have wanted.

Supt Mike McAndrew, in charge of the TSG at the time said: “She was a thoroughly professional police offcer who died doing the only job she ever wanted to do.”

A year after Nina’s killing, a street had been named after her in Newham and the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and the then founder and chair of the Police Memorial Trust Michael Winner and Sir Paul unveiled memorial to her in an emotionally-charged event in Stratford, at the spot where she was slain.

Mr Winner said her story had become “part of the legend of Newham.”

He said she was a soldier in the war on crime that has no beginning and no end.

“When Nina Mackay came to Arthingworth Street on that fateful day, the spirit that keeps this nation afloat came with her. If you could rewrite the dictionary, put it under H for Heroism: to act like Nina Mackay.”

Sir Paul said that in years to come, police officers and members of the public would pass the memorial and read Nina’s name, and “her courage and sacrifice will live forever.”

Mr Blair said he felt privileged to unveil the memorial.

“When were first told of the tragedy at Number Ten it was deeply shocking, but as we have read and learned more about her, the shock became more personal to us. She was a  remarkable young woman.

“She was a vivacious, dedicated and determined person and the memorial is a fitting way to remember her.”

Five years ago, Magdi Elgizouli, her killer, who would now be 49, was released from Rampton Hospital.

In 45 years as a journalist, 15 of them as Editor of four papers, I still find this was one of the most bizarre decisions. Surely treatment of a killer has to be balanced with justice for the victim’s family?

He had been diagnosed as having a pathological hatred of the police .  The paranoid schizophrenia sufferer was deemed well enough to be transferred from a secure unit to a community hostel, but psychiatrists still feared his mental state could be adversely affected if he sees police on patrol. As a result he was to be housed in an area with few police on the streets to protect his mental health. Though there were concerns about how Elgizouli would react to seeing police officers, psychiatrists said he was not a danger to the public.

Twenty years on it is time to pay homage again to Nina.

Whenever I see that memorial I am taken back to that sad time we got the first call to say something serious had happened in Stratford.

The memorial reads simply: Here fell Pc Nina Mackay 24th October 1987. It is also engraved with the Met Police badge.

But my main feeling is that the people of Newham’s pride in Nina will never diminish.



Pictures: Met Police, Colin Grainger

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This article was written on 23 Oct 2017, and is filed under East London, Newham, Pc Nina Mackay, Police.

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