ADMITTING more than 250 offences of burglary and robbery would usually be a prelude to a very lengthy prison sentence.
In Karl Chapman’s case, the admission was the first step on a path leading to drink, drugs and sex, all available courtesy of West Yorkshire Police.
Deception and manipulation were second nature to a young but already prolific criminal and he gleefully played the generous hand offered by the police for all it was worth - and then some.
Chapman arrived in an era when using a ‘supergrass’ had become fashionable and clear-up rates were of increasing concern to police forces with a keen eye on crime statistics.
He was arrested in 1994 and quickly signalled his intent to admit his crimes to police investigating a series of ‘bogus official’ burglaries and robberies in the Leeds area.
By September Chapman, then aged 21, had indicated his willingness to give detectives information about criminal accomplices and a major inquiry called Yew II was launched.
In November, the supergrass secured his first deal. In return for testifying against his partners in crime Chapman was given assurances about his and his mother’s protection, the promise of a new identity, relocation on release from prison and a formal police statement at his sentencing hearing to secure a reduced sentence.
Instead of prison, the supergrass spent the entire period between November 1994 and August 1995 at Killingbeck police station in Leeds where he gave 119 statements about his accomplices.
During this period extra favours began to fall into his lap. An allegation of rape went no further, a charge of wounding against another prisoner became bogged down in court proceedings before eventually being dropped, and a caution for his mother handling stolen goods was never officially recorded.
In July 1995, Chapman pleaded guilty to 11 robbery, burglary and theft offences and asked for a further 256 similar offences to be taken into consideration.
For more than a year, the supergrass then flitted between protected witness units in prison and Killingbeck as he gave evidence in a clutch of trials and provided information to police.
In July 1996, Chapman was taken to his mother’s for a birthday party and smoked heroin in the back garden.
In the autumn of 1996 the supergrass gave evidence in the trial of criminal accomplice Gary Ford, who was subsequently convicted on a parallel indictment. During the day, there was every public impression of tight security as Chapman was given a high-profile armed escort to court. Back at Millgarth police station in Leeds, life was somewhat different.
Chapman got drunk with police officers, went to their homes, to the pub, took heroin and was allowed his freedom to visit a female Pc he had a relationship with. He signed off during his trip back to prison six weeks later by smoking cannabis on the way.
Improper favours continued the following year as Chapman provided evidence in the Joe Smales murder investigation. In December 1997, the supergrass received a nine-year sentence – in stark contrast to the 25 years handed down to Ford.
By August 1999 Chapman was out on licence with a new identity, accommodation and a £10,000 reward from the police.
Yet within months the supergrass – now known as Karl Ryan – began another crime spree and in 2000 was given a 10-year term for a spate of burglaries.