South East Wales

Lynette White: Corruption probe officer 'not avenging angel'

Lynette White

The senior officer in charge of probing corruption claims against eight police officers over the 1988 Lynette White murder case has denied he was an "avenging angel".

The now-former officers' trial collapsed in 2011.

The eight cleared are suing South Wales Police for misfeasance in public office and false imprisonment.

Chris Coutts, now retired, told the High Court in Cardiff he had not been "determined" to see them prosecuted.

Graham Mouncher, Thomas Page, Richard Powell, John Seaford, Michael Daniels, Peter Greenwood, Paul Jennings and Paul Stephen are suing South Wales Police.

They claim the force's officers "conducted the investigation with a mindset of guilt towards them" from the start.

'Professional investigation'

Mr Coutts told the court on Monday he took on the job of investigating the claims in July 2003.

Counsel for the claimants, Anthony Metzer QC, suggested his role was to right a "miscarriage of justice" allegedly perpetrated by the men.

"I never saw my role as an avenging angel," he replied. "I saw my role as having been given this task to carry out a professional investigation - that's what I sought to do.

"And to carry it out in the context of the back story and to do it without fear or favour."

Mr Metzer asked Mr Coutts: "You had it in your mind from the outset that you wanted these officers prosecuted, did you not?"

"No I did not," Mr Coutts replied.

"I was not determined. There was no rush to judgement. Over two months, I spent a period of time setting out the lines of inquiry and looking at the material."

'Lack of open-mindedness'

Mr Coutts also denied using the book Fitted In by Satish Sekar, a campaigning journalist, as a "progenitor or bible from which to act thereafter".

He said the book was simply among the material which helped set out the areas that had to be considered, adding: "It was not my job to adopt any person's view of the case."

When asked why Mr Sekar was kept up to date with the investigation, Mr Coutts said: "He was a key stakeholder".

"Why does a campaigning journalist have an interest in the case?" Mr Metzer asked, pointing to a 69-page log recording police contact with Mr Sekar.

"He had been designated as such by a chief officer and I had been instructed to carry on in the same way," Mr Coutts replied.

He denied there was a "total lack of open-mindedness" from the outset of the investigation.

The case continues.

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