Armed terror cops raid the wrong flat leaving Hornsey dad wrongly branded a terrorist
- Credit: Archant
An innocent father-of-two has been wrongly branded a terrorist after armed anti-terror police stormed his flat in a mistaken raid.
Around 20 officers in black swat gear and balaclavas burst into the bedroom of supermarket night worker Garcia Diabaca and ransacked his home - before realising they were at the wrong address.
The petrified 31-year-old feared the men were gun-toting intruders who were going to kill his family and he has been left severely traumatised by the ordeal and in fear for his wife and children’s safety.
The operation on the Campsbourne Estate in Hornsey was witnessed and filmed by neighbours, who now wrongly believe Mr Diabaca is a terrorist.
Threats and abuse have been slung at the family, including “we’re going to blow you up before you blow someone else up”, and they no longer feel safe in their home in Campsfield Road.
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MP Catherine West accused police of doing nothing to publicly exonerate Mr Diabaca or assist the family in the aftermath of their error.
“He’s been treated appallingly,” she said. “His family are not terrorists but have been innocent victims of a terrible mistake. The police must apologise and put it right immediately.”
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The nightmare began when Mr Diabaca, who is a British citizen but grew up in war-torn Angola, awoke to his front door being smashed in at 3pm on April 13.
“I just heard this massive noise and things falling all over the place and screams,” he said.
“All I was thinking about was my family, and asking ‘What’s going on and where’s my family?’ I thought I was going to be murdered, that my family was being murdered.”
He was pushed against a chest of drawers and handcuffed as officers turned the flat upside down for about 10 minutes before the atmosphere suddenly altered.
“I heard one of them shouting ‘Wrong address, wrong address’, and then I just fell to my knees,” said Mr Diabaca.
Luckily his wife, community nurse Patricia Makuta, 31, had taken their son and daughter out for a play-date at the time of raid.
But the fall-out has affected the family deeply. His five-year-old daughter keeps asking if police are coming to take daddy away. Mr Diabaca suffers flashbacks and night terrors and struggles to sleep without pills.
His knee and wrist were injured when he was restrained and he has been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and was signed off work for six weeks.
But the actions of police since have added insult to injury.
“We’ve had nothing at all from them,” said Arsenal FC supporter Mr Diabaca. “The only thing they did was come back the next day and brought me some flowers as an apology, but that was it basically.
“There was a trust there, but now I see police and I think do they actually know what they’re doing? Breaking into the wrong property is one of the basic mistakes you probably shouldn’t make. I believe they should have known exactly who they were looking for.
“I’m a black man and the lady who was later arrested, she is a white woman.”
Advocates from St James’s Church Legal Advice Centre in Muswell Hill have written to police demanding compensation for the unjustified invasion of Mr Diabaca’s privacy and the damage to his reputation and property, but have received no reply.
The family has also been forced to ask the council to move them urgently from their home of 10 years due to fears for their safety. This has not happened.
“It’s been the talk of the estate really and that’s why we think the police should have done more to make it clear that we are not connected to this at all, to clear our names,” said Mr Diabaca, who works at Morrisons.
“I cannot express enough the damage this whole episode has caused our lives.”
Hornsey and Wood Green MP, Ms West, raised the case in the House of Commons on June 4. She is due to meet with the minister for counter-terrorism and said the family deserve answers.
A police spokesman said: “We can confirm that on April 13, as part of an investigation by the Met’s counter terrorism command, officers effected entry in error to an address in north London. Officers apologised at the time and are in contact with the residents to resolve any further concerns or issues they may have.
“An internal review is being carried out.”
A 24-year-old woman was arrested at an address in north London later that day on suspicion of having information about acts of terrorism. She has been bailed until next month.
Homes for Haringey, the council’s housing operator, said it had addressed immediate safety concerns and is now considering longer-term options for the family.
Terrorism arrests soar by 17 per cent - but is there enough scrutiny of policing?
Home office figures show counter terrorism arrests in the UK have risen by 17 per cent in the last year.
The Metropolitan Police this week said they have stopped an average of one terrorist attack every month since the high profile terror incidents of 2017.
Head of counter terrorism policing Neil Basu said: “We are determined to make the UK as hostile an environment as possible for terrorists.”
But in the aftermath of the mistaken raid on Garcia Diabaca’s home, questions have been asked about whether there is enough transparency and accountability when things go wrong.
MP Catherine West said the dad-of-two’s civil liberties had clearly been breached.
“There’s complete consent across all parties about trying to stop terrorism,” she said. “However when a mistake is made, and when there is not the required sensitivity in relation to this type of policing, then the police must apologise and put it right immediately.
“And I am not seeing that in this case. I’m very grateful this is being raised publicly so we can redouble our efforts to get attention to this case and get a result.”
The Ham&High asked police for an explanation of how counter terrorism officers came to raid the wrong flat, but we did not receive a response.