Douglas Park


A nigh-on compulsory cliché about any important event is “everybody can remember where they were and what they were doing when it happened”.Unfortunately, this isn’t always so.  All too often, tragedies get awarded back-seat status, despite their direct impacts on all of our lives and everything else.

The following has to be or definitely is the greatest such example. 

One fine day (Around 4.30 pm, on February 26th 1994 to be exact) seemed like just another day and business as usual for the New City Cinema of Saint John Street in London.  O.k, so this was no ordinary cinema, but an adult, sex or porn flea-pit; as we all know and can’t deny (but frequently take for granted) such establishments are the life-force and blood of society and humanity, the new rock n roll and the umpteenth emergency service.  However, any norm is bound to have exceptions and not always run according to plan or need as expected. 

Everything changed forever never to be the same again with the advent of a certain David Lauwers (34 at the time, at least partly of Dutch descent and nationality, a tailor’s pattern-cutter by trade and occupation, of no fixed abode and with severe hearing-impediments –which might’ve been at least partly behind him being known as “deaf Dave” –unless that was a coincidence and there were other reasons).  As may be not uncommon, this already “boozed up” (as the prosecution later said), David Lauwers disagreed over the entrance-cost or the fact payment was required (a £7 tariff in 1994 money), claimed he’d already paid earlier, argued with those on the door, as was later admitted, got headbutted by doorman, Alfred Parsons and somewhat got slightly refused admission a bit.   Sadly, this wasn’t the end of it.  David Lauwers didn’t give up that easily, being made of sterner stuff.

Evidently, David Lauwers resented the price or even the sheer fact cash had to handed over and also fact he was turned away.  What little is known about this David Lauwers and what went through his mind that fateful day, 1 thing is for certain: he didn’t take to or shrug off rejection lightly and could well have been the sort to bear a grudge.   Alongside what turned out to be sheer folly on the part of the New City Cinema –a deadly combination and a marriage made in hell, just waiting to happen.

Its highly likely that David Lauwers could well have been what experts would diagnose as sub-clinically or even terminally fed-up, possibly in a tertiary or terminal phases of a bad mood.  Possibly even then, plots were hatching themselves.  He can’t have got too far before coming across a convenient petrol station.  Once there, he bought a tin of fuel (unless he stole it –because he didn’t seem prepared or able to pay for the entrance-cost at the New City Cinema).  Its unrecorded whether anything seemed memorable or amiss to the staff wherever that was.

Once fully equipped, David Lauwers returned to the New City Cinema.  Perhaps after some disturbance or even confrontation, unless he chose his riposte to be an unexpected sweet surprise sprung onto the unsuspecting unawares –he well and truly fired, took aim and retired –or rather scarpered –unless he stayed around to gloat and cheer and remind his targets of their plight.

Many hands on deck went down.  Still more came to grief.  A few escaped –mostly scoring injuries.  Apparently, 1 sucked clean air through a cracked wall (not a gloryhole).  The Fire Brigade (unless it was the Royal National Lifeboat Association or Meals-On-Wheels or something) must’ve taken the job on for a laugh, found it difficult or even impossible to keep straight faces and not fall around and piss themselves.  They later got medals for bravery though, so it wasn’t all in vain or only for fun.  The names of those who fell for us on black whateversday appeared on teletext.  Despite that being tailormade for the cast or credits on a war memorial monument, theres still no permanent reminder in their memory and honour.  An obelisk with balls at the base would be ideal.  Epitaphs like: “Lest We Forget”,  “What A Way To Go” and  “Better Luck Next Time” seem in order. 

Not long after his faux-pas, David Lauwers visited an unnamed friend, where upon seeing newsfootage about his handiwork, remarked: “Christ, I never knew it was as bad as that.  I could be in for a murder charge here”.  Realising he’d hit the jackpot and struck lucky and wanted to claim his prise, David Lauwers reported to some police station.   When charged and sentenced right up the Old Bailey, for reasons of “understanding” (whatever that means in legal terms), David Lauwers got some discount-tariff of only 3 deaths, not the full 11.  The prosecutor was a certain, John Nutting.  Sign-lingo infested what were otherwise “hearings”.  Another odd thing was the court-case trial happened over a year after black whateversday.  David Lauwers went down for life and doesn't seem to have been heard of since -unless I've lost the bet there on that one.

Even at the time the event went dismissed, apart from exchanges like: “so you / I / we got out o.k”, “that’s the last time anybody dares turn you / me / us away”, “serves them right” and “that should teach them” etc.  For all I know, there were no services, questions in parliament, speeches, 1 minute’s silence or anything like that.

Apparently, the New City Cinema reopened at the same place or nearby, under the same or another name.  No other known episodes seem associated with it. 

None of those customary headlines that get regurgitated and dusted-off for such occasions neither.  “How Did It Happen?”, “A Community Scarred And Torn Apart”, “Could This Spell The End Of Our Love-Affair With The Sex-Cinema?”, then later “1 Year On: Could It Happen Again? / Lessons That Just Haven’t Been Learned?”. 

Bit too late for any of that now though.  As well as that war memorial monument idea, what would be nice are things like a star-studded action-packed feature flick (a la the ‘Towering Inferno’, ‘The Poisidon Adventure’, ‘The Titanic’ etc) and a hit-musical set to run and run. 

However, we should never rule out the possibility of conspiracies, cover-ups and media-blackouts.  Was David Lauwers set up and framed and knowing on more than he let on?  Notice how little there is online and in print about it.  Coincidence?  Whatever, as far as I’m concerned this ere file should never be closed –and I promise never to rest or give up until the many can finally say: “justice at last!”

© Douglas Park, 2009