Police hunt 15 people over Edward Colston statue 'criminal damage'

22 June 2020, 06:32 | Updated: 2 July 2020, 05:24

The Edward Colston statue was toppled and thrown in the harbour
The Edward Colston statue was toppled and thrown in the harbour. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Police investigating the toppling of the statue of Edward Colston during a Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol have released images of people they want to speak to.

The statue of the slave trader was torn down during anti-racism protests in Bristol City centre and dumped in the city’s harbourside at about 2.30pm on June 7.

The statue was sprayed with paint and attacked before being dragged to the harbourside, where it was thrown into the water near Pero's Bridge - named in honour of an enslaved man.

On the day of the protest officers from Avon and Somerset Police made a tactical decision not to intervene at the time but launched a criminal damage investigation a short time after.

Now detectives from Avon and Somerset Police have identified 18 people they want to question about the incident, with the force releasing 15 images on Monday.

Detective Superintendent Liz Hughes said: "The incident attracted worldwide attention and there's no denying it has polarised public opinion - but in the eyes of the law a crime has been committed and we're duty-bound to investigate this without fear or favour.

"I'd like to reassure people we're carrying out a thorough, fair and proportionate investigation and have sought early investigative advice from the Crown Prosecution Service."

It is understood that Bristol City Council has provided a statement to police about the incident.

As we reported previously, Bristol City Council removed the statue from the harbourside with a spokesperson indicating it would be " taken to a secure location before later forming part of our museums collection."

Det Supt Hughes said a "large amount" of video footage and images circulated online and on social media, as well as footage from CCTV cameras, had been examined as part of the investigation.

"We've made a small handful of identifications and we've spoken to some of those individuals," she said.

"They will be coming in for voluntary interviews in the coming days.

"However, despite every effort being made to identify the remaining people we'd like to talk to, we still don't know who they are which is why we're now releasing images of them in the hope the public can help.

"Some of the images are not as clear as we'd like, and some of those we want to identify are wearing masks but we're confident someone will know them and be able to provide us with their name."

Anyone with information is asked to contact the force on 101, providing the reference number 5220123926, or anonymously via the charity Crimestoppers.

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