Hearing branded a whitewash after police officers cleared of ‘spying’ misconduct claims

Janet Alder, sister of former paratrooper, Christopher Alder,
Janet Alder, sister of former paratrooper, Christopher Alder,

The sister of a former paratrooper who died in police custody said she was “shattered” to discover she and her barrister had been subjects of an unauthorised police surveillance operation nearly 17 years ago.

Janet Alder said she “couldn’t find words strong enough” to describe the fear she felt to find police were spying on her and Leslie Thomas QC, the only Afro-Caribbean barrister during the inquest into her brother Christopher’s death.

Ms Alder, whose brother was found to have been unlawfully killed by the inquest jury in 2000, said she was disgusted that while listening to “heartwrenching evidence and slurs on Christopher’s character and attempts on the side of Humberside Police to justify his inhumane treatment and debasement, decisions were being made to spy on me.” Mr Alder choked to death while handcuffed on the floor of a police station in Hull in 1998

Ms Alder, from Halifax, was speaking after a panel concluded there was no case to answer against two officers accused of gross misconduct over the unauthorised surveillance on July 28 2000.

The defence argued that the officers - who did not give evidence - would have been acting on the orders of more senior officers, and the spotlight should not have been on them in the first place. Chairman Louisa Cieciora concluded: “The panel is not satisfied that any misconduct panel properly directed could find the allegations proven.”

But Ms Alder said many unanswered questions remained - as there had been about her brother’s death and how his body came to be discovered in a mortuary 11 years after supposedly being buried. “I always believed this would be a whitewash and I was proved right,” she said. The hearing focussed on under two hours - and yet there had been two periods of authorised surveillance starting on July 3 2000 and ending in January 2001. The first allowed observations outside the court, the second “public place surveillance,” including “mobile, foot and technical” in all areas covered by Humberside Police. Despite this no evidence has been found of any surveillance other than on July 28 2000, something Ms Alder find impossible to believe, given her brother’s high-profile funeral was that November.

Detective Chief Superintendent Judi Heaton of Humberside Police said: “We know that this has been a distressing time for Ms Alder and her family. We do understand her frustration that the exact details around the case have not been able to be established.”

Despite three days of evidence, it is not known who authorised the one hour and 53 minutes of surveillance on July 28, 2000.

The panel found “significant gaps” in evidence, as the Crown Prosecution Service also discovered in deciding in 2015 not to prosecute anyone involved in the policing operation for the inquest, Operation Yarrow, or 14 members of the surveillance team. There were no records of the briefing of the team or any notes of the surveillance itself.

The only detailed recollections were provided in Operation Akita, when officers were informally interviewed by another team member, and not under caution.