I am now in possesion of the full email sent to members of the Brent Labour Executive on the 8th May on which today's Evening Standard article is based. It was leaked because the person concerned was disturbed by the claim that Cllr Butt involved a junior member of staff in investigating a councillor's death, rather than because they throught Muhammed Butt was trying to avoid a by-election. The leaker says that neither Michael Pavey nor Bobby Thomas (apparently another possible leadership challenger tomorrow) passed on the email.
I find it extremely inappropriate that Cllr Butt involved myself - a junior member of staff - in investigating Cllr Oladapo’s death and deeply concerning that he appears to have misled both Brent Council and Labour Party staff regarding his knowledge of this sad occurrence. I am also disturbed that no investigation has been launched into this issue, despite my having raised these concerns with relevant party officials in early March.
My involvement in investigating Cllr Oladapo’s death
Cllr Tayo Oladapo died on 29 January 2016. But this was not reported publicly until 11 March 2016.
It was me who discovered that Tayo had died. I visited the Royal Free Hospital on 4 March 2016 to check on Tayo’s condition. I was informed that he died on 29 January 2016. I reported this to the London Regional Labour Party, who notified Cllr Butt on 7 March.
The reason I visited the hospital (4 March, evening) was because on 2 March Cllr Muhammed Butt told me that he believed Tayo was dead, and that he had been dead for a month.
Cllr Butt said that Tayo’s mother had taken Tayo back to Nigeria because she didn’t want any treatment for her son in the UK.
Cllr Butt told me that he had been in contact with Tayo’s family - but that they would no longer take his calls and had blocked his number. Cllr Butt asked me to call Tayo’s sister because he believed Tayo had been dead for a month. He urged me not to tell London Region if Tayo’s sister confirmed her brother had passed away.
I was new to Brent and had only been working here for 5 weeks. I didn’t understand why Cllr Butt was asking me who had never even met Tayo to make such sensitive inquiries?
I was shocked that Cllr Butt didn’t ask the Labour Group Whip or Brent Council’s electoral services department to investigate a matter of this level of seriousness. Cllr Butt told me that he didn’t want a by-election to take place in Kilburn, but I didn’t understand why this was the case.
I didn’t understand why he asked me to investigate at the Civic Centre, I was there to discuss how campaigning was going and how he could whip Councillors.
The thought of calling Tayo’s sister (a complete stranger) out of the blue to ask her whether her brother had died made me extraordinarily uncomfortable.
But because Cllr Butt is the Leader of the Council I felt obliged to do something, so I went to the hospital. On reflection I deeply regret this.
Once I found out that Tayo had indeed been dead for over a month I became even more uncomfortable.
I reported my concerns to Mark Walker, Regional Organiser for Brent & Harrow at London Region on 2 March. (After I saw Cllr Butt) I was told that this matter would be taken extremely seriously. Mark told me to speak to the sister and said ‘anything the sister tells me is the gospel’
I tried to contact Tayo’s sister several times but got no response.
I visited the Royal Free Hospital at around 8pm and was told Tayo had passed away on 29th January.
On 7 March in the morning, I had a conversation with Mark and he said that Cllr Butt said he had no idea.
I informed both Mark and Pat Harrison, Secretary of the Brent Council Labour Group at a meeting in Pavitt Hall that I was concerned that Cllr Butt may have known that Tayo had past away over a month ago.
On 7 March I was told by London Region that Cllr Butt had been ordered to report this matter to the Brent Labour Group meeting on the 7 March. But Cllr Butt did not even mention Tayo at this meeting. At this point I started to become seriously concerned that this extremely serious issue was not being handled appropriately.
These feelings were confirmed when I found out that in the Labour Group Executive premeeting on the evening of 7 March, Cllr Butt stated that when Region called to tell him that a Brent Cllr had died, he claimed he didn’t know which Cllr.
But Region only knew Tayo was dead because Cllr Butt himself had asked me to investigate because he himself believed Tayo had been dead for a month.
I was told by Mark that Cllr Butt would contact the Borough Commander, as there needed to be evidence to call a by-election on 5 May.
On 8 March at a GLA Task force meeting, Cllr Butt at the end mentioned that Tayo was not dead and that I had got the details wrong. I immediately said that he should speak directly to Mark Walker.
On 10 March I was at the London Region office and Mark mentioned that Cllr Butt had not spoken to the Borough Commander, I made it clear that I felt very uncomfortable and said that Tayo’s death needs to be announced.
In the end Mark Walker had to contact the Borough Commander to get confirmation of Tayo’s death.
Tayo’s death was finally announced publicly on 11 March from this point onwards I have solely focused on the by-election. But I have become more and more troubled by the fact that there has been no investigation into these events.
I informed Pat Harrison and Mark Walker at London Region that Cllr Butt told me on 2 March that he believed Tayo had been dead for a month. This is an extremely serious allegation - not least because it means that the Full Council meeting on 22nd February was knowingly misled. But there has been absolutely no investigation.
Instead, I have been left to carry this immense burden. As someone who is completely new to Brent I think this is extremely inappropriate. I have been left alone to try and deal with the fact that a young man’s death may well have been covered-up by a senior politician and continue to work with him.
Of course I recognise that an election campaign is an extremely charged political atmosphere, but on a matter of this seriousness there really should have been a formal investigation.
Because I have been so determined to secure a Labour victory on May 5th I have kept my mouth shut now for two months. This has been extremely uncomfortable. Now that the election is out of the way and I am leaving I feel it would be inappropriate not to raise these concerns.
I never met Tayo, but from everything I’ve heard of him he was an honourable and decent man. His memory deserves better than this.