On February 28, 2001 the current writer interviewed Mrs Nadine O’Neill and her husband Eddie at length. Also present were two of their three sons: Alexander and Eddie junior. Mrs O’Neill it should be remembered was the sister of Clarke Pearce, and her husband the victim’s brother-in-law. The other people in Clarke’s party on that fateful night * in November 1986 were his fiancée, Jackie, who married some time after Clarke’s death, and David and Sharon, close family friends.
My first contact with Mrs O’Neill was October 23, 2000, following a written inquiry. On that occasion we spent an hour talking.
One of the most salient points she made the first time I spoke to her was that the incident was all over in a flash. Mr O’Neill said it lasted thirty or forty seconds, which is hardly enough time for a man to be provoked by a stranger to such a point that he was not master of his own mind. This time scale is also totally at odds with the exotic claims of Ram and his apologists which have Clarke backing him into a corner, Ram begging him not to come any closer, and somehow drawing a small knife with a folding blade from his pocket, grappling with Clarke, and managing to stab him in the back more by accident than by design.
Mrs O’Neill’s recollection is that Clarke asked the waiter if he could change the tape. The waiter replied that the restaurant was soon closing and said something like “It all sounds the same”. Then Ram called out “What’s the matter, don’t you like Paki music?”
Mrs O’Neill insists that the only thing Clarke said to Ram was “I wasn’t talking to you.” Then Ram attacked him.
Ram was sitting at an adjacent table with his friend Narvinder Shinji, and Evelyn Schneider. The fact that the tables were close together more or less rules out the claim that Clarke ran at Ram.
Because the incident happened so quickly, and because of the resulting trauma, she isn’t sure exactly what happened. She said she thought her brother had been glassed by Shinji, but Mr O’Neill said that when Shinji picked up a glass, he told the Indian to put it down, and he did.
Two things that stick in her mind are that Ram definitely used a flick knife, and that he had the knife in his hand when he left the restaurant. Ram was wearing a jacket; he took the knife out of his trouser pocket, opened it with one hand, and, she insists, she heard a click, and shouted to her brother. It appears that at this point Clarke moved forward and said something like “You wanna fight dirty then, ya bastard”. As he did so he knocked a glass forward; the glass probably hit the wall. A vast mythology has been built up around this, but both Mr O’Neill and Mrs O’Neill are adamant that Ram was not hit by the glass, either wilfully or accidentally.
After the attack Ram went into the toilet with Schneider. What they did in there is anybody’s guess, but what can be said for certain is that Schneider did not take the knife off him, fold it and put it on top of the towel machine. Flick knives don’t fold.
As Ram left the restaurant, Clarke was being tended by Dave, the third man in the party. Mr O’Neill had left to phone for an ambulance because the manager refused to allow him to use the restaurant phone. (It should be remembered that this was a time before mobile phones were in widespread use).
Mrs O’Neill’s other vivid recollection is that as Ram passed her brother who was lying on the floor with his neck hanging open, he motioned with the knife towards Dave’s head as if to stab him. Dave was trying to staunch the blood flow with a serviette.
According to the Ram campaign, Sharon, the third woman in the party, reported the following conversation:
Ram: “Is he dead?”
The Ram campaign say this conversation was a total fabrication, yet by their own admission, one of the independent witnesses reported that Ram said much the same.
In spite of the obvious confusion, the testimony of both Mr and Mrs O’Neill is compelling. When I first spoke to Mrs O’Neill I asked her if it were true that Ram called Clarke’s fiancée a slag on his way out of the restaurant (as claimed in the Birmingham Evening Mail’s report of his conviction). She said that she had no recollection of this. From this, and from other, less tangible things, it is clear that although by her own admission she hates Ram, she does not lie or exaggerate to show him in the worst possible light - as the Ram campaign say of all the prosecution witnesses.
After the attack, Clarke sat down at the table, not realising how badly he had been wounded. Then he stood up and collapsed in the doorway. Mrs O’Neill said she can’t remember him standing up. He had been stabbed in the groin, in the side, in the neck, and twice in the back. The second time Ram stabbed him in the back he twisted the knife. There were two post-mortems. The funeral was held December 17, 1986.
The restaurant staff didn’t realise how badly Clarke had been injured, and as well as refusing to allow Mr O’Neill to phone for an ambulance, the manager was more concerned that the meal be paid for. Mrs O’Neill’s handbag was swiped and she was struck in the chest.
The claim, or insinuation, that Clarke’s party was made up of drunken louts is a total fabrication, as is the claim that they were racists, whatever is meant by that nebulous and nowadays all-pervasive epithet. The fact that Sharon shouted or may have shouted “fucking bastard, black bastard” after she realised the extent of her friend’s injuries is hardly evidence to the contrary.
The O’Neills insist that the claim that Clarke or anyone else in their party used the phrase “wog music” or similar terms is a total fabrication. The most likely explanation for this claim is that Ram simply made it up. It should be remembered that he did not turn himself in to the police for eight days, during which time he was by his own admission in touch with his family, and presumably others who were willing to assist him. This gave him plenty of time to fabricate a story, which if not convincing was as convincing as he could make it.
Clarke Pearce was strapped into a chair and loaded into an ambulance; Dave travelled with him. Clarke’s fiancée was hysterical, and Mrs O’Neill said she too became hysterical when she was told that her brother had died. She had previously had to sign a consent form, and was told that he was going to be all right. The hospital was swarming with police.
Statements were taken fairly promptly while the recollections of the witnesses were fresh. The claim that the police fabricated the statements of the Asian witnesses, and that Clarke’s party fabricated their own statements belongs in the realm of fantasy along with Ram’s pen knife, the vicious assault on Ram, the incompetent barrister, and all the other fabrications, distortions and twisted half truths that have been spewed out by Ram and his acolytes over the years.
* The incident actually happened in the small hours of Sunday, November 16, 1986. Clarke Pearce was taken away in an ambulance immediately after the stabbing; he was pronounced dead at Birmingham General Hospital at 4.23am.
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