Supergrass files: Papers vanished after detective’s home burgled

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DOCUMENTS relating to the inquiry into serious misconduct by West Yorkshire Police officers were stolen during home burglaries.

The thefts were one of a series of obstacles North Yorkshire Police ran into when trying to uncover the full scale of wrongdoing at the neighbouring force which also included missing paperwork and prolonged delays in handing over evidence.

North Yorkshire Police had been appointed by the Criminal Cases Review Commission to investigate the safety of convictions obtained on the basis of evidence from supergrass Karl Chapman amid allegations of police misconduct surrounding his treatment.

The policy book of North Yorkshire Det Chief Supt Peter McKay, who ran Operation Douglas for most of its six-year span, recorded a burglary at the home of a detective in April 2003.

The book states the burglary was “one of a number of crimes involving the ‘outside staff’ and of concern.” Operation Douglas papers were stolen and staff were reminded to only take papers home if absolutely necessary and for them to be kept in bedrooms if they were. Consideration was also given to the provision of burglar alarms if requested.

The record kept by Mr McKay, who took over the leadership of Operation Douglas in 2002, also showed he had to weigh up when to issue regulation nine disciplinary notices against West Yorkshire officers in case this triggered the disappearance of documents.

An entry in the officer’s policy book for August 2002 indicated some files have not been located and added: “For this reason service (of) Reg 9’s may impede investigation & allow papers/files to be destroyed or moved.”

The following month, the policy book said the policy would be to search for indentified documentation as soon as disciplinary notices were served “to reduce possibility of interference”.

An entry in January 2003 shows Mr McKay found the decision, by West Yorkshire Police, not to suspend a number of unidentified officers as “surprising”.

The same entry notes the need to obtain “untainted statements from key players before further information that the enquiry is unearthing becomes public knowledge.”

Mr McKay gave an example of a conversation with one West Yorkshire officer who subsequently changed his version of events after phoning a colleague who was also involved with Chapman.

In another document Det Chief Supt Ian Lynch expresses the opinion that recovering information from West Yorkshire Police was “unacceptably prolonged”.

Mr Lynch, who ran Operation Douglas from its start in 2001 until he retired the following year, reached the opinion “... because many of the documents had not been preserved by the West Yorkshire Police in accordance with the Commission’s notices” despite these being formally served under the Criminal Appeals Act 1995.

There was “no trace” of the police paper file relating to one of the West Yorkshire investigations under scrutiny, it added.