South East Wales

Lynette White trial: Police watchdog to investigate collapse

Lynette White Image copyright BBC news grab
Image caption Lynette White was murdered in a flat in Cardiff's docklands in February 1988

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has launched an investigation into the collapse of a police corruption trial in south Wales.

Eight police officers were cleared of perverting the course of justice in relation to the murder of Cardiff prostitute Lynette White in 1988.

The IPCC will investigate the destruction of copies of files which the defence said they should have seen.

The judge ruled that the defendants would not have had a fair trial.

On Thursday the prosecution offered no evidence and all ten defendants, including two civilians, were acquitted.

Not guilty verdicts were entered in the hearing at Swansea Crown Court, in a trial that followed the wrongful conviction of three men for the murder of Ms White.

Jailed in 1990, the three men were freed in 1992 after the Court of Appeal ruled a gross miscarriage of justice.

A DNA match led to another man, Jeffrey Gafoor, a former client of Ms White, who admitted her murder in 2003.

On Friday, the IPCC confirmed it would now investigate allegations against South Wales Police following the collapse of the latest trial.

In a brief statement, an IPCC spokesperson said: "The IPCC 's investigation will look at issues surrounding the destruction of copies of files by South Wales Police officers which contributed to the premature end of the Lynette White trial.

"On 1 December 2011 the prosecution offered no evidence and all ten defendants were acquitted.

"The IPCC investigation follows the voluntary referral of the matter by South Wales Police."

The cost of the failed investigations and trials is thought to run into tens of millions, with one estimate putting it as high as £30m.

Keir Starmer QC, the director of public prosecutions, has already ordered a full review of the circumstances surrounding the failed trial.

Inquiry calls

The South Wales Police Federation welcomed Thursday's acquittal of the eight officers, saying its retired members had endured an "absolute nightmare" of being on bail, awaiting trial.

"The sense of relief which these officers must now be feeling will be overwhelming and we would like to take this opportunity to thank them for presenting such a professional approach to what has been a most depressing and life-changing process," it said.

However, John Williams, the former head of South Wales CID who led the original murder investigation, agreed that there was a need to "find some accountability" from South Wales Police.

Mr Williams, who explained he had attended the trial in Swansea to support his colleagues in the dock, said: "People will be asking how do the South Wales Police become accountable for what appears to be a severe abuse of process resulting in a massive spend of money."

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