‘It’s not too late to come forward’: Brother pleads for information over Jay Abatan killing

Jay Abatan
Jay Abatan

The brother of Eastbourne man Jay Abatan who died after being attacked in Brighton is calling for justice 20 years on.

Michael Abatan said he will hold a vigil outside Brighton police station on January 29 to mark 20 years since his brother’s death.

Jay Abatan, 42, was attacked while waiting for a taxi outside the Ocean Rooms in Brighton in January 1999, in what his family believe was a ‘racially-motivated attack’.

After hitting his head on the pavement he suffered a fractured skull and died in hospital five days later.

Two men were arrested and charged with manslaughter 24 hours after the attack but charges were later dropped over insufficient evidence.

Over the years Michael Abatan has criticised Sussex Police over its handling of the case, and reviews by other police forces found failings in the investigations.

He told Sussex Newspapers in 2014: “My family can no longer trust Sussex Police.”

Sussex Police said it accepts failings in the 1999 investigation but is ‘committed to investigating any new information’ that could result in a conviction.

This week, Michael Abatan said: “January 29 2019 marks the 20th anniversary of his death. Still nobody has stood trial over his killing. I will be marking this anniversary with a vigil outside Brighton Police station in John Street, Brighton. I will be there from 4pm.

“I have campaigned since that time to try and bring the men responsible for his death to justice. Sussex Police have recently succeeded in bringing a prosecution after 32 years against Russell Bishop so I know that this is possible.

“I am intending to mark my brother’s death on the January 29 and would like to remind people out there who are protecting these men that it is not too late to come forward and do the right thing. I am told that there are some witnesses who are still wrestling with their conscience but scared of repercussions. My message to them is it is never easy to do what is right but they should have courage to correct this injustice.”

Assistant Chief Constable Nick May of Sussex Police said: “Sussex Police has accepted that mistakes were made during the initial investigation into the unlawful killing of Jay Abatan, and regret that nobody has been convicted of this cowardly attack.

“We have apologised publicly for the failings in 1999 but reinforce that current investigative practices are vastly different. We remain committed to investigating any significant new information that will assist in convicting those responsible for Jay’s death.

“Senior detectives have met and corresponded with the Abatan family on a number of occasions over the years in order to respond to their concerns and to provide answers to any questions raised. The last of these meetings was in March 2015 with the Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne.

“The initial investigation into Mr Abatan’s death has been subject to considerable, well-documented scrutiny. Its shortcomings, for which former Chief Constable Joe Edwards personally apologised to Jay’s family in 2005, were highlighted in an independent review that resulted in the second investigation and review. At their request the family were provided with a detailed account of this investigation.

“The Force has completely updated and reorganised the way it investigates both major crime and critical incidents since 1999. Significant changes to our investigative practices include a dedicated Major Crime Team, accredited senior investigating officers and trained family liaison officers.”