Shine A Light

The racist texts. What the Mubenga trial jury was not told

Jimmy Mubenga died under restraint by three G4S guards. Extreme racist texts found on two of the guards’ phones were withheld from the jury who yesterday cleared all three men of manslaughter. (Warning: this piece contains highly offensive language)

Clare Sambrook
17 December 2014

Jimmy Mubenga with his youngest child


Here’s a joke:

“What’s the difference between a cricket bat and a teatowel? Fuck all. They both wrap round a Muslim’s head nicely. Happy St George’s Day.”

That was one of 65 extremely racist texts found on the mobile phone of Terrence Hughes, one of three G4S guards acquitted yesterday of the manslaughter of Jimmy Mubenga. The judge ruled that this text and other racist material found in possession of two of the guards were inadmissible evidence.

Jimmy Mubenga, a healthy 46 year old, the father of five children, died on a British Airways plane at Heathrow Airport on the evening of 12 October, 2010. He was being deported to Angola, escorted by guards from G4S, a security company working under contract to the Home Office.

Last year an inquest jury found that Mubenga had been “unlawfully killed”, that one or more of the guards had pushed or held him down “in an unlawful manner” and that the guards “would have known that they would have caused Mr Mubenga harm in their actions, if not serious harm”.

The Crown Prosecution Service charged the three guards — Terrence Hughes, 53, Colin Kaler, 52, and Stuart Tribelnig, 39 — with manslaughter.

At the men’s Old Bailey trial the jury was told that fellow passengers had heard Jimmy Mubenga cry out “I can’t breathe” as he was pinned to his seat while handcuffed from behind. The defendants insisted they heard no such cries. They said they had not pushed his head down in a position known to risk asphyxia. Yesterday the jury acquitted them of manslaughter.

Hughes’s racist texts, and others found on Stuart Tribelnig’s mobile, were not revealed to the jurors who cleared the three men. That’s because defence lawyers had argued that hearing about the racist material would “release an unpredictable cloud of prejudice” in the jury, preventing a fair trial.

Here’s another text from Terrence Hughes’s phone:

“I went to my local the other day only to find a black barman. So I said give me a drink nig nog. He said that’s a bit racist, come round here and see how like it. So we swapped places and he said give me a drink you mother fucking white honkey cunt. I said sorry mate we don't serve niggers!”

The judge ruled that the racist texts were inadmissible. So too was the fact of the unlawful killing verdict and the Coroner’s report which concluded that there was an “unhealthy culture” in the G4S workforce and “endemic racism”.

The Coroner, Karon Monaghan QC, had written: “It seems unlikely that endemic racism would not impact at all on service provision. It was not possible to explore at the Inquest the true extent of racist opinion or tolerance amongst DCOs [Detainee Custody Officers] or more widely. However, there was enough evidence to cause real concern, particularly at the possibility that such racism might find reflection in race-based antipathy towards detainees and deportees and that in turn might manifest itself in inappropriate treatment of them.”

Here’s another text from Terrence Hughes’s phone:

“Have you noticed that if you re-arrange the letters in illegal immigrants and add just a few more letters it spells out fuck off and go home you free-loading, benefit-grabbing, kid-producing, violent, non-English-speaking, cock suckers and take those hairy-faced, sandal-wearing, bomb-making, goat-fucking, smelly rag head bastards with you. How weird is that?”

The Coroner went on: “As it was put by one witness, the potential impact on detainees of a racist culture is that detainees and deportees are not ‘personalized.’ This may, self-evidently, result in a lack of empathy and respect for their dignity and humanity potentially putting their safety at risk, especially if force is used against them. It is for that reason that the subject properly forms part of this Report.”

The jury in the criminal trial were not to know any of this.

The barrister, Frances Webber, in an illuminating post at Institute of Race Relations News, writes:

“The exclusion of relevant evidence meant that the case actually lacked part of its context, and the defence suggestions that Mubenga was indeed too big, strong and vociferous and helped to bring about his own demise, won the day. And although the guards denied any unlawful or dangerous restraint, the sub-text was that if they did do anything untoward it was because of a lack of training and therefore outside of their individual culpability.”

Here’s another text from Terrence Hughes’s phone:

“Can you spare just £2? Ranji is a 9-year old boy living in India. He has just one leg, one arm and one eye. Each day he has to ride seven miles to school along a narrow road on a rusty bike with bent wheels, no brakes and only one pedal. If you send just £2 we will send you the video. It's fucking hilarious.”

And there’s more:

“Ku Klux Klan bloke has just had his Rottweiler upgraded and chipped. It is now up to ten niggerbytes per second.”

And more:

“Had a water fight with the Paki kids in the street. Their high-powered water pistols are no match for my freshly boiled kettle.”

And more:

“I’m voting for the Icelandic volcano party. It’s done more to stop immigration in the last five days than Labour has in the last ten years.”

In the months after Mubenga’s death Hughes posted on his Facebook page an image of a dark-skinned man sitting on a plane with his seatbelt positioned above his shoulder and the question: “Come on then what's wrong with this pick???”

Hughes’s Facebook friends chipped in comments. Here’s one:

“He hasn't got two hairy arsed escorts either side of him, no cuffs and not shouting, ‘Kill me now I'm not a hanimal’.”

Here’s another: 

 “Such a dumb fuck this bloke, first time on a plane and no Engrish.”

Questioned about all this at the inquest, Hughes said: “I have never used any racist language at work,” and “I’ve never told a racist joke to anyone.”

The Coroner asked Hughes about a disciplinary tribunal that followed a complaint against him by a woman being returned to Congo. The woman, Miss Batola, claimed that Hughes had whispered in her ear: “You’re an animal. Go back to the bush where you belong.”

Hughes denied saying those words. He said: “if I called her an animal, I may have used the term in stop behaving and I never actually said that I said it. I said if I did say it, it would have been in that type of context. . . .if I did say it, I might have said it in that way because she was trying to bite me.”

Miss Batola had claimed that Hughes apologised for calling her an animal. At the inquest Hughes said: “I apologised to her, yes, because we used handcuffs on her and I don’t like using handcuffs on ladies.”

No racist texts were found on Colin Kaler’s mobile.

Stuart Tribelnig had lots of them. At the inquest, the Coroner asked him to read a few out:

“We’ve sent the Pakistanis 70 million in aid. The Yanks have sent them 90 million. The Irish have sent them Michael Flatley's DVD to teach the fuckers how to do River Dance.”


“I walked past a blind black guy begging in the street. He said, ‘Any change, mate?’ I said, ‘Nope, you're still a nigger’.”


“I’ve just lost my job as a life guard at the local swimming pool. Apparently tapping the bombing sign as a family of Muslims walked past is not acceptable.”


 “I’ve just been sacked from my new job from the wines and spirits section at Asda. A Muslim came in and asked me to recommend a good port. I said, ‘Dover, now fuck off’.”

Tribelnig admitted forwarding two texts to G4S colleagues. “They’re just jokes that did the rounds,” he said.

The Coroner asked him: “Did you think they were funny?”

“No,” he said.

Then why forward them?

“I don’t know,” Tribelnig said. “I can only put it down to an unthinking moment.”

The Coroner said: “The contents of those messages suggest a certain disrespect, to put it mildly, towards black people?”

“Yes,” said Tribelnig.

“Is that . .  something that you generally hold as a view?”

“No,” he replied. “I have close relationships with many people from varying different cultures. My partner’s sister’s husband and her children are black so there are black people within my family circle.”

Frances Webber notes: “Following the acquittal, the judge told the jury that they were not to be concerned if they later read about material that was ruled inadmissible at the trial.” She asks: “What should we make of this advice?”


  • Notes:
  • You can find a sample of Stuart Tribelnig’s texts here in the transcript of Day 3 of the inquest (15 May 2013: pages 225 to 231).
  • There’s a sample of Terrence Hughes’s 65-strong cache of racist texts here in Day 5’s transcript (17 May 2013: pages 105 to 115).
  • The quotes relating to Hughes’s disciplinary tribunal are here (17 May 2013: page 149).
  • Hughes has been referred to in the press and in legal documents variously as Terence Hughes, Terrence Hughes and Terry Hughes.
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