In Well Street, Hackney, shortly before midnight on 11 February 1982, Terry McCluskie and his friend Raymond Reynolds picked a fight with a total stranger, Robert Ford, and stabbed him to death. Ford was 15 years old and had just taken his girl-friend home after spending an evening at a local Citizens' Band radio club. McCluskie, also 15, and Reynolds, 14, had spent the evening drinking and were on their way to a chip shop when they ran into their victim. It is barely worth speaking of anything as tangible as motive in Robert Ford's murder. Robbery may have been involved, though McCluskie has always denied that it was. Any part it did play was tangential. 'We had a go at him to get some money,' Reynolds told the police, 'he gave me 10p and when I asked for more he said he didn't have any and that's when we started to stab him.' There was also some mention of 'dirty looks', and these, real or imagined, probably did more to provoke the attackers. To describe the assault as 'mindless' might not be so wide of the mark: it was vicious and random - typical, some would say, of an entire spectrum of violence intrinsic to modern Britain.
LRB 20 February 1997 | PDF Download