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Brixton's royal visitor

ROYAL WELCOME: The Queen Mother mingled with the community at the opening of a centre for elderly West Indians in Brixton

ONE WEEK after it had led its front page with news of a charred unidentified body found by bin men on waste grounds in east London, The Voice was back on the case April 30, 1983 with a follow up front page reporting that the body was identified as 17-year-old Steven Gaspard, a young black teenager who had lived in a nearby hostel.

‘Charred body identified – tragic death of hostel boy’ was the headline of its 33rd edition that was published 35 years ago.

The newspaper reported that murder squad detectives were unable to identify the body in the normal way of finger prints and dental records but instead took blood samples from the victim’s father, Jerry Gaspard, to confirm their beliefs it was Steven.

Speaking to The Voice, Mr Gaspard said: “I think it’s Steven, because I was supposed to have met up with him just before the body was found.

“He didn’t show up and he didn’t phone me to tell me he wasn’t coming – and that’s not like him.”

The Voice article went on to highlight problems at the Kipper Hostel in Stepney where Steven was staying, not far from Heckford Street where his charred body was found.

The hostel was one of 20 in the Tower Hamlets borough and while providing a useful service for homeless people, were said not to be viewed in a positive light by the council.
One ex-worker said the conditions within the hostel had deteriorated due to a lack of funding.

Mr Gasper was unhappy his son was living in a hostel and told The Voice: “I don’t believe they could have taken proper care of him and I don’t believe they even realised he was missing until his body was discovered.

Days after the body was found, The Voice article said police had arrested five youths on a charge of unlawful imprisoning but they were at lengths to dismiss any connections with Steven’s death. Mr Gaspard, however, believed otherwise.

He said: “They must have something to do with it and I believe an adult was involved.

“Someone who would think the best thing to confuse everybody would be to take away all forms of identification of my son.”

Also featured of the front cover was a picture of the Queen Mother as she officially opened The Luncheon Club and Day Centre for elderly West Indians in Brixton, south London.

The Voice said the Queen Mother mingled with the crowd and spoke briefly with members of the community.

On page two, the headline on the lead story was ‘Tharj fighting for local people’, which reported on the racial tension which existed in Tower Hamlets in east London and singled out the work Tower Hamlets Association for Racial Justice (Tharj) was doing to combat it.

The article was accompanied by a photograph of Cathy Louis who said the aim of Tharj was to fight for racial justice and equality in the borough.

Louis said the state of race-relations in Tower Hamlets was very bad in terms of the activities of right wing groups attacking black residents as well as institutional racism.
This is why Tharj was formed – to highlight the problem as it existed and initiate campaigns to do something about it.

The Voice article said the group had achieved some notable success when it forced Tower Hamlets Council to revoke the license of the National Front book stall in Brick Lane market. Louis told The Voice: “We hope to strengthen our campaigning position as well as increase awareness among people as to their rights and situations.”

Turning over to page three, the headline on the lead story was ‘Famine relief fund raise £600’, which was money collected from black people for the Save the Children fund’s appeal towards the growing famine in Ethiopia.

The Voice reported that the money in cash, postal orders and cheques was collected as a result of an appeal by Rastafari Aid to Ethiopia Committee, formed by six women when news of the famine first started to filter through. The money was presented to John Chamber, director general of the Save the Children fund, who thanked those present on behalf of the many who had contributed.

Also on the page was a report of the funeral of five Nigerian sisters who were tragically killed two weeks earlier
in a house fire in Frogmore Avenue, Hayes. ‘Children’s death rekindles community spirit’ was the headline as the story reported on the funeral service at St Bernard’s Hospital chapel, Southall.

The family had received many letters and phone calls from relatives and friends expressing sorrow and regret at the tragic loss.

Speaking after the service, the father of the children, Chaplain Oulseye Olumide, said that the death of his children “was not in vain because it re-established the true virtues of community feelings and concern for one another”.

The centre pages of the newspaper, pages 12 and 13, were dedicated to coverage of the second staging of the London Black Beauty and Hair show and exhibition held in the West Centre Hotel, Earls Court. Under the headline ‘Hair to Stay’ the story said the well-organised and executed hair show demonstrated just how talented the black community were.

The Voice is celebrating its 35th birthday this year. Share your Voice memories, comments and birthday wishes on social media, using the following hashtag #Voice35Years. Each week we will be digging into The Voice archive and publish a front cover from its first year of publication as we look back over 35 years.

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