ONE of Yorkshire’s most senior police officers has admitted that it is still not known whose body lies in a grave intended for a former soldier, after his corpse was discovered in a morgue more than a decade after he was thought to have been buried.
In an horrific blunder which is now the subject of a criminal investigation, the body of former paratrooper Christopher Alder was found in a hospital mortuary when the family of a Nigerian woman, Grace Kamara, asked to see her body in the same morgue last Friday.
It is yet to be established whether Mrs Kamara was buried in the grave of Mr Alder, a Falklands veteran who was 37 when he died in police custody in Hull in 1998.
Because of the sensitivities surrounding Mr Alder’s death and Humberside Police, the force’s current Chief Constable Tim Hollis asked South Yorkshire Police to carry out the inquiry.
Mr Hollis, who took over the Humberside force in 2005, said: “Everybody is assuming that Mrs Kamara is in the grave but until that’s been confirmed we can’t even be confident of that. I’m as keen as everybody else to find out exactly what happened and where the responsibility lies.”
Mr Hollis said he was “appalled” by the mix-up – but said if anyone had committed an offence they should be brought to justice.
“If there’s any criminal evidence that’s got to be put before the Crown Prosecution Service,” he said.
But the chief constable said despite the need for answers the investigation could not be rushed.
He said: “Everybody wants to know what has happened but it does take time and we are talking about events that happened in 2000 and events up to 13 years ago. We might need patience.”
Mr Hollis said his thoughts were with both families as they struggled to come to terms with what had happened.
He added: “I have expressed my sincere sympathies to both sets of families. As a family man myself it’s an extraordinary position and so hard.”
He also spoke of his shock when he was informed of the situation in a telephone call from Nicola Yates, the chief executive of Hull Council.
“On Saturday I was informed that Nicola Yates, a very competent chief executive, needed to speak to me urgently. That’s a rare request. I rang her and she started to describe to me the situation regarding Mrs Kamara and as soon as she mentioned Christopher Alder I explained to my wife and family I was having to go back to Hull as soon as possible.”
Mr Hollis said he quickly decided to ask another force to investigate.
“At a fairly early time I made a decision; there was a request for police investigative support and my judgement was because of the history it was simply not advisable for Humberside Police to do that work and my decision was to ask for support from colleagues in South Yorkshire.”
Mr Alder was taken to hospital after being concussed in a scuffle outside a nightclub but police were called when he became aggressive. He was taken to a police station and choked to death on blood and vomit as he lay on the floor with his arms handcuffed behind his back.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission found the conduct of four officers who were present amounted to “unwitting racism” and the “most serious neglect of duty”.
Five officers were cleared of manslaughter and misconduct charges in 2002 and cleared of disciplinary offences in 2003.