Lynette White case: Police officers' trial collapses
- 1 December 2011
- From the section South East Wales
South Wales Police says it has asked the police watchdog to investigate after the UK's biggest case involving alleged police corruption collapsed.
Eight former officers were cleared of perverting the course of justice at Swansea Crown Court after the wrongful conviction of three men for murder.
The judge ruled the officers and two other defendants, who were also found not guilty, could not get a fair trial.
The case follows the murder of Cardiff prostitute Lynette White in 1988.
Files relating to complaints by an original defendant were said to be missing, and the director of public prosecutions said he was "extremely concerned".
The cost of the investigations and trials is thought to run into tens of millions.
One estimate put it as high as £30m.
South Wales Police has referred the matter to the Independent Police Complaints Commission and has said it would be inappropriate to comment further.
Tony Paris, Yusef Abdullahi and Stephen Miller were wrongly jailed for life in 1990.
The officers involved in the original investigation of the case all denied conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
Former officers Graham Mouncher, Thomas Page, Richard Powell, John Seaford, Michael Daniels, Peter Greenwood, Paul Jennings, Paul Stephen have now all been acquitted.
Ex-Ch Insp Page has called for an inquiry into why he and the other defendants were subjected to the lengthy investigation.
In a trial which began at Swansea Crown Court in July, civilians Violet Perriam and Ian Massey also denied two counts of perjury. They have also been cleared.
The case, twice halted to discharge a jury member, ended in dramatic fashion on Thursday.
Simon Clements, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) reviewing lawyer in the case, said following a request by the judge on 28 November, a review by the prosecution of a certain section of the unused material uncovered that some copies of files, originally reviewed but not considered discloseable at that time, were missing.
This information, he said, related to complaints made by one of the original defendants to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and another complaint relating to the investigation.
"On inquiry, it was found that these copies had been destroyed and no record of the reason for their destruction had been made by the police officers concerned," said Mr Clements.
"This was the first time that prosecution counsel or the CPS had been made aware of this destruction."
Mr Clements added: "Although this relates to copies and not original files, it is now impossible to say for certain whether the copy was in fact exactly the same material that had been provided by the IPCC, reviewed and then destroyed.
"The destruction of those copies, along with the non-recording of the destruction, meant that it would be impossible to give meaningful re-assurances that no other material had been treated similarly, thus undermining the defence's confidence in the disclosure process.
"Given the stage reached in the proceedings, the correct course of action is to offer no evidence, thus inviting verdicts of not guilty and ending the trial."
Keir Starmer QC, the director of public prosecutions, has decided there must be a full and detailed review of the circumstances in which this decision has had to be made and that the review would have the full support and cooperation of South Wales Police.
Speaking outside the court, Mr Page called for an inquiry into why he and the other defendants were subjected to the lengthy investigation.
Mr Page said this should be conducted by police outside the force area.
Mr Page's barrister, Gregory Bull QC, said: "We are delighted that, after six-and-a-half years of being on police bail, the innocence of Mr Page has been firmly established.
"We always contended that there was insufficient evidence against him.
"The last six-and-a-half years have been the most traumatic years in his life.
"After 31 years as a police officer who received 26 commendations during his service, he felt bitterly let down by the manner of his arrest and the process that he has been put through."
The ending of the trial appears to be the final twist in a long-running saga which began when Miss White was stabbed more than 50 times inside a Cardiff flat on 14 February, 1988.
Mr Paris, Mr Abdullahi and Mr Miller - who became known as the Cardiff Three - were freed in 1992 after their convictions were quashed.
The case was reopened in September 2000 when new evidence was brought to light. Advances in DNA led to the arrest of security guard Jeffrey Gafoor who in July 2003 was jailed for life for the murder.
In 2004 the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) began an inquiry to establish what went wrong with the original investigation into the murder.
A year later former police officers were arrested and questioned on suspicion of false imprisonment, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and misconduct in public office.
In March 2008 the CPS announced there was "sufficient evidence" to prosecute the officers.
In December of the same year trial witnesses Mark Grommek, Angela Psaila and Leanne Vilday were each sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment.
John Actie and his cousin Ronnie were acquitted at the 1990 trial at which Mr Miller, Abdullahi and Paris were wrongfully convicted.
Speaking after the collapse of the officers' trial, Mr Actie said: "It's disappointing for everyone involved, not just myself, (but for) every other family involved who was in the case over the last 20-odd years. It's finished now."