South Yorkshire Police officers mistook an indecent image of a young child for that of an adult woman when it was brought to them as evidence of child sex abuse carried out by paedophile rock star Ian Watkins, it was revealed today.
Watkins’ former partner, Joanne Mjadzelics, from Doncaster, fears more children were put at risk in 2012 by the officers’ mistaken belief the close-up image sent to her by the singer was not of a child.
She says she was told by an investigator from the Independent Police Complaints Commission that a paediatrician estimated the child pictured to be approximately five years old.
The watchdog has now said that, while a paediatrician was never able to estimate the exact age of the child in the photograph, and that an estimated age was never communicated to Ms Mjadzelics, its belief was that the child was ‘well under the age of 14’. Last week a report by the watchdog revealed South Yorkshire Police officers ignored repeated warnings that Watkins was a dangerous paedophile.
And a separate IPCC report published today warns that Watkins could have been caught and brought to justice nearly four years earlier if another force, South Wales Police, had properly investigated reports from a series of informants.
But no action is to be taken against any of the three officers whose actions during the investigation was agreed by the IPCC and South Wales Police to be either misconduct or gross misconduct.
Ms Mjadzelics said the fact that she had been vindicated “doesn’t undo years of damage and abuse caused by police inaction, mistreatment and defamation of witness.”
Ms Mjadzelics, who was in an on-off relationship with Watkins for six years, said she was disappointed the issue of the age of the child had not been made clearer in the IPCC’s initial findings published last week.
She added: “When the IPCC investigator told me a paediatrician had estimated the girl was five years old I thought how dare the police try and tell me it belonged to an adult woman, how dare they say that? How dare they put more children at risk?”
An IPCC spokesman said: “We produced an image to Ms Mjadzelics which she confirmed was the same image she showed to South Yorkshire Police in May 2012. It was impossible for our investigation to prove conclusively what South Yorkshire Police officers saw as the laptop was destroyed.”
This comes a week after The IPCC said none of three South Yorkshire Police officers, whose conduct they believed amounted to either conduct or gross misconduct, would face any action because all of them had retired after 30 years of service.
Watkins was jailed for 29 years in December 2013 with a further six years on licence, after admitting a string of sex offences, including the attempted rape of a fan’s baby.
The disgraced singer was arrested following the execution of a drugs warrant at his Pontypridd home on September 21 2012.
South Yorkshire Police were unavailable for comment when contact by The Yorkshire Post.