On Monday evening reports started to emerge of rioting in the Ely area of Cardiff. Ely is a working class area of the city, and it was said that the rioting was caused by ‘false rumours’ of a police chase which resulted in the deaths of two teenagers: Kyrees Sullivan, 16, and Harvey Evans, 15.

Following the deaths, which occurred at about 6 pm, around 100 people gathered, initially to find out what had happened. This sparked rioting, as news of the deaths started to circulate, along with rumours that the deaths had been caused by a police van which had chased the youths prior to the collision which led to the two deaths.

The police immediately went into public relations mode, briefing the press that: “”Police responded to this collision which had already occurred when officers arrived and they remained on scene to manage a large-scale disorder until the early hours of this morning.” This was the first denial that the police might have been responsible for the two deaths.

On Tuesday morning, Alun Michael, former Labour MP and now Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales, did the morning press round. After confirming to BBC Wales that there had been a collision involving loss of life, he explained: “It would appear that there were rumours, and those rumours became rife, of a police chase, which wasn’t the case, and I think it illustrates the speed with which rumours can run around with the activity that goes on social media nowadays, and that events can get out of hand.”

The police were, it seemed, off the hook. What had happened was that two youngsters had been using an e-bike which collided with another vehicle leading to their deaths. It was an unfortunate, but tragic, accident. Police had to deal with the fall out of this terrible accident, as local people took to the streets, spurred on by social media reports of a police chase, and this led to fireworks being thrown, cars set alight and police officers being injured. In other words, this was a case of serious criminality based on false rumours spread by social media.

However, there was a twist in the tail. Late on Tuesday evening CCTV footage emerged which showed clearly an electric bike going past at quite high speed, followed shortly afterwards by a police van which appeared to be following it. Deputy Chief Constable Rachel Bacon said that the van was half a mile away at the time of the crash, whilst the CCTV footage showed that the van was within one minute of the bike and following it.

Meanwhile Wales First Minister Mark Drakeford has defended Alun Michael, saying, “He was relaying the best information that had been given to him”. He went on to say that the issue should not be turned into “a political football involving individuals”.

According to their website: “The role of the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) is to be the voice of the people and hold the police to account.” Alun Michael would seem to be a little confused about what that involves. He clearly did not take the views of ‘the people’ who told the press the two boys “are dead because they [the police] chased him on a little electric motorbike.” (statement by one of the boys uncle).

It is hard to know how you can ‘hold the police to account’ when you simply accept their version of the truth and repeat it for media outlets as fact. It is not just embarrassing to be proved wrong by the emerging evidence, it is a sign that the PCC is far closer to the police than to ‘the people’.

It is a tragedy that these two young men were killed. E-bikes are evidently dangerous. Nobody knows why the police chose to chase them. However, the political question here is why the police created a narrative of ‘false rumours’ and why the PCC repeated that narrative as fact without properly examining the evidence. We have to ask whether this is yet another example of a police chase going wrong and of the police attempting to cover up their own wrong doing? The answer to that will only come from an independent enquiry, but that raises the issue of exactly who is independent enough to actually carry out such an enquiry?

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