Police release images of 15 people following toppling of Edward Colston statue

Detectives investigating the toppling of the statue of slave trader Edward Colston during a Black Lives Matter protest have released images of 15 people they wish to speak to.

The monument to the 17th century merchant was pulled from its plinth in Bristol city centre with ropes at about 2.30pm on June 7.

It was sprayed with paint and attacked before being dragged to the harbourside, where it was thrown into the water near Pero's Bridge – named in honour of an enslaved man.

Black Lives Matter protests
Fifteen people Avon and Somerset Police wish to speak to in connection with the toppling of the statue of Edward Colston (Avon and Somerset Police/PA)

Officers from Avon and Somerset Police made a tactical decision not to intervene at the time but launched a criminal damage investigation a short time after.

The force has identified 18 people that officers want to speak to about the incident, with images of 15 of these released on Monday.

Detective Superintendent Liz Hughes said: "The incident attracted worldwide attention and there's no denying it has polarised public opinion – but in the eyes of the law a crime has been committed and we're duty-bound to investigate this without fear or favour.

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Statue torn down in Bristol
BRISTOL, ENGLAND - JUNE 11: The statue of slave trader Edward Colston is retrieved from Bristol Harbour by a salvage team on June 11, 2020 in Bristol, England. The statue was pulled from its plinth in the city centre and thrown in the water by anti-racism campaigners during a Black Lives Matter protest. (Photo by Andrew Lloyd/Getty Images)
BRISTOL, ENGLAND - JUNE 11: The statue of slave trader Edward Colston is retrieved from Bristol Harbour by a salvage team on June 11, 2020 in Bristol, England. The statue was pulled from its plinth in the city centre and thrown in the water by anti-racism campaigners during a Black Lives Matter protest. (Photo by Andrew Lloyd/Getty Images)
BRISTOL, ENGLAND - JUNE 11: The statue of slave trader Edward Colston is retrieved from Bristol Harbour by a salvage team on June 11, 2020 in Bristol, England. The statue was pulled from its plinth in the city centre and thrown in the water by anti-racism campaigners during a Black Lives Matter protest. (Photo by Andrew Lloyd/Getty Images)
BRISTOL, ENGLAND - JUNE 11: The statue of slave trader Edward Colston is retrieved from Bristol Harbour by a salvage team on June 11, 2020 in Bristol, England. The statue was pulled from its plinth in the city centre and thrown in the water by anti-racism campaigners during a Black Lives Matter protest. (Photo by Andrew Lloyd/Getty Images)
BRISTOL, ENGLAND - JUNE 11: The statue of slave trader Edward Colston is retrieved from Bristol Harbour by a salvage team on June 11, 2020 in Bristol, England. The statue was pulled from its plinth in the city centre and thrown in the water by anti-racism campaigners during a Black Lives Matter protest. (Photo by Andrew Lloyd/Getty Images)
BRISTOL, ENGLAND - JUNE 11: The statue of slave trader Edward Colston is retrieved from Bristol Harbour by a salvage team on June 11, 2020 in Bristol, England. The statue was pulled from its plinth in the city centre and thrown in the water by anti-racism campaigners during a Black Lives Matter protest. (Photo by Andrew Lloyd/Getty Images)
Protesters pull down a statue of Edward Colston during a Black Lives Matter protest rally in College Green, Bristol, in memory of George Floyd who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis.
Protesters pull down a statue of Edward Colston during a Black Lives Matter protest rally in College Green, Bristol, in memory of George Floyd who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis.
Protesters throw statue of Edward Colston into Bristol harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest rally, in memory of George Floyd who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis.
Protesters throw statue of Edward Colston into Bristol harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest rally, in memory of George Floyd who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis.
Protesters dragging the statue of Edward Colston to Bristol harbourside during a Black Lives Matter protest rally in memory of George Floyd who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis.
Protesters throw statue of Edward Colston into Bristol harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest rally, in memory of George Floyd who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis.
Protesters throw statue of Edward Colston into Bristol harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest rally, in memory of George Floyd who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis.
Protesters throw statue of Edward Colston into Bristol harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest rally, in memory of George Floyd who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis.
BRISTOL, ENGLAND - JUNE 11: The statue of slave trader Edward Colston is retrieved from Bristol Harbour by a salvage team on June 11, 2020 in Bristol, England. The statue was pulled from its plinth in the city centre and thrown in the water by anti-racism campaigners during a Black Lives Matter protest. (Photo by Andrew Lloyd/Getty Images)
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"I'd like to reassure people we're carrying out a thorough, fair and proportionate investigation and have sought early investigative advice from the Crown Prosecution Service."

It is understood that Bristol City Council has provided a statement to police about the incident.

The council retrieved the statue, which will be displayed in a museum along with placards from the Black Lives Matter protest, from the harbour on June 11.

Ms Hughes said a "large amount" of video footage and images circulated online and on social media, as well as footage from CCTV cameras, had been examined as part of the investigation.

"We've made a small handful of identifications and we've spoken to some of those individuals," she said.

"They will be coming in for voluntary interviews in the coming days.

"However, despite every effort being made to identify the remaining people we'd like to talk to, we still don't know who they are which is why we're now releasing images of them in the hope the public can help.

"Some of the images are not as clear as we'd like, and some of those we want to identify are wearing masks but we're confident someone will know them and be able to provide us with their name."

Anyone with information is asked to contact the force on 101, providing the reference number 5220123926, or anonymously via the charity Crimestoppers.

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