Police lies exposed in official report into the Stephen Lawrence case
Report also reveals allegations of a ‘spying operation’ on teen’s family
Evidence suggests Detective Sergeant John Davidson acted corruptly
Findings are described as ‘profoundly shocking’ by Theresa May
Investigation into murder case carried out by barrister Mark Ellison, QC
Home Secretary orders a judge-led public inquiry into undercover policing
Stephen Lawrence was killed in an unprovoked racist attack in April 1993
His mother Doreen says her family has endured ’21 years of struggle’
Baroness Lawrence calls for those involved to resign
Damning: An official report has exposed two decades of police lies about the investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, who died in 1993
Two decades of shameful police lies about the Stephen Lawrence case were exposed in a damning official report yesterday.
Shocking allegations of corruption, a police cover-up and a ‘spying operation’ on the teenager’s grieving family were laid bare.
And the report also revealed that undercover police operations spanning decades may have led to scores of wrongful convictions and miscarriages of justice.
The findings – described as ‘profoundly shocking’ by Home Secretary Theresa May – were contained in a major report into the Stephen Lawrence murder investigation by barrister Mark Ellison, QC.
Mrs May has now ordered a judge-led public inquiry into undercover policing in light of the report, in particular the Met’s now disgraced undercover unit, the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS). She has also demanded a fresh criminal probe into the corruption allegations that have dogged the Met’s Lawrence investigation for 21 years.
Stephen’s mother Doreen, now Baroness Lawrence, fought back tears in the House of Lords as she said her family had endured ‘21 years of struggle’ and called for those involved to resign.
On a day of extraordinary revelations, it emerged that:
Evidence suggests a detective on the original murder investigation, Detective Sergeant John Davidson, acted corruptly.
Key documents relating to corruption in the original inquiry were shredded by Scotland Yard in 2003.
A number of serving and former senior Met officers, including former Commissioner John Stevens, are facing difficult questions over the scandal.
A criminal offence of police corruption is to be brought forward by the Government to replace the ‘outdated’ offence of misconduct in public office.
The report comes barely two years after two of the original murder suspects, Gary Dobson and David Norris, were convicted of Stephen’s murder following a marathon quest for justice by his parents.
Stephen, who was 18 and hoped to become an architect, was stabbed to death by a group of up to six white youths in an unprovoked racist attack as he waited at a bus stop in Eltham, South-East London, with a friend on April 22, 1993.
Dozens more cases now in doubt: Undercover police unit routinely lied to the courts
Doreen Lawrence fights back tears in House of Lords as she says family has endured ‘21 years of struggle’ after shock revelations of police corruption
The 1999 Macpherson Inquiry into his death accused the Met of being institutionally racist but concluded that police corruption had not thwarted the case.
The Lawrences have always disagreed with the conclusion and yesterday’s Ellison Review is seen as a vindication of their campaign. It was also another bad day for the Met, still reeling over the Plebgate row.
Emotional: Stephen’s mother Doreen, now Baroness Lawrence, fought back tears in the House of Lords as she said her family had endured ’21 years of struggle’ +11
Stephen’s devastated father Neville said the findings were ’21 years overdue’ +11
Emotional: Stephen’s mother Doreen, now Baroness Lawrence, fought back tears as she said her family had endured ’21 years of struggle’, while his devastated father Neville said the findings were ’21 years overdue’
Announcing the public inquiry, Mrs May told the Commons the actions of undercover officers – such as failing to reveal their true identities in court or to correct evidence they knew was wrong – meant there was ‘real potential for miscarriages of justice’.
‘Policing stands damaged today,’ she said. ‘Trust and confidence in the Metropolitan Police and policing more generally is vital. A public inquiry and the other work I have set out are part of the process of repairing the damage. Stephen Lawrence was murdered over 20 years ago and it is still deplorable that his family have had to wait so many years for the truth to emerge.’
Former home secretary Jack Straw said he believed institutional corruption might have been found within the Met if the Macpherson Inquiry had received all the evidence.
‘How can we trust them? Confidence in the Met will go right down’
The Labour MP said it was now clear there was probably dishonesty at the highest level of the force, which led it to refuse to offer evidence despite being required to do so.
Baroness Lawrence described the latest revelations as the ‘final nail in the coffin’ and said those involved should resign for their ‘disgraceful’ actions.
‘You can’t trust them. Still to this day. Trust and confidence in the Met is going to go right down,’ she said.
Stephen’s devastated father Neville said the findings were ‘21 years overdue’.
He added: ‘I sat through the last inquiry but I have yet to decide whether I can go through another inquiry. It is very painful. While all this has been happening, our family has been destroyed. I now live 5,000 miles away from my children and my grandchild.’
The activities of police moles were a key part of the Ellison review after a former SDS officer, Peter Francis, claimed he had been deployed undercover from September 1993 and tasked to ‘smear’ the Lawrence family campaign.
Theresa May orders new Stephen Lawrence public inquiry
Campaign: Neville and Doreen Lawrence attend a press conference at the commission for racial equality in 1997 +11
Campaign: Neville and Doreen Lawrence attend a press conference at the commission for racial equality in 1997
Landmark: The Daily Mail’s front page from February 14, 1997 which launched the paper’s campaign to achieve justice for Stephen Lawrence +11
Landmark: The Daily Mail’s front page from February 14, 1997 which launched the paper’s campaign to achieve justice for Stephen Lawrence
In his report Mr Ellison, who successfully prosecuted Gary Dobson and David Norris for Stephen’s murder in 2012, found that an SDS ‘spy’ was working within the ‘Lawrence family camp’ during the Macpherson public inquiry.
The SDS was a shadowy undercover unit formed by the Met’s Special Branch, and operated between 1968 and 2008.
‘The presence of an undercover officer in the Lawrence family camp is highly questionable’
Mark Ellison, QC
Mr Ellison also said there evidence to suspect one of the detectives on the original Lawrence murder investigation, Detective Sergeant John Davidson, was in a corrupt relationship with David Norris’s gangster father Clifford Norris. There was a high level of suspicion that the former officer was corrupt both before and after he worked on the police investigation, he added.
He said his review had not been able to uncover all material evidence relating to the issue of corruption, adding that it was clear there were ‘significant areas’ where relevant Met records should exist but could not be found. The original anti-corruption intelligence database itself could not be accounted for, the report added.
Met Deputy Commissioner Craig Mackey: ‘There can be no serving police officer today who will not be saddened, shocked, and very troubled by what the Home Secretary has said, and the conclusions Mr Ellison has reached.
QUESTIONS POLICE CHIEFS MUST ANSWER
Sir Paul Condon, Met Commissioner 1993-2000
Q What did you know about the alleged spying operation into the Lawrence family and if you didn’t know why not?
Sir John Stevens, Met Commissioner 2000-05, Deputy Commissioner 1998-99
Q What did you know about the decision to pulp key documents on corruption relating to the Lawrence case? Should the Met have been more transparent about corruption to Macpherson?
Ex-Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Grieve, asked in 1998 to head a new murder inquiry.
Q What did you know about the secret bugging of meetings between Dwayne Brooks, Stephen’s friend who was there on the night, and his lawyer?
Commander Richard Walton
Q Who asked you to meet the police spy and why?
Ex-Assistant Commissioner Sir Dave Veness, in overall charge of SDS from 1994.
Q How much did you know about the activities of SDS in relation to the Lawrence case?
Whistleblowers: Leveson got it wrong +11
The killer’s gangster father who’s accused of menacing witnesses… and a disgraced cop he’s alleged to have corrupted
Pictured: A down-at heel Clifford Norris yesterday +11
Pictured: A down-at heel Clifford Norris yesterday
Known as the Godfather of Eltham, his menacing shadow hung over the Lawrence case from its earliest days.
Clifford Norris, one of South London’s most ruthless gangsters, is suspected of intimidating key witnesses and corrupting police officers to stop his son David being convicted of Stephen’s murder.
Although on the run for drugs and gun offences when Stephen was stabbed to death, Norris senior remained a feared and enormously powerful figure in the Eltham area. Witnesses knew their life would be in jeopardy if they testified against his son.
At the time, Norris lived the high-life. In keeping with his crime baron status, he drove fancy cars, owned a Kent mansion, and his penchant for expensive restaurants and fine wines turned him into a bloated little man with a double chin and a paunch that strained the buttons of his designer suits. However, today he cuts a very different figure.
With the fortune he made from drug deals sequestered by the courts, and his empire usurped by rivals during his years in prison, the 55-year-old has sought solace in the bottle.
Now a scrawny, emaciated man with rheumy eyes and a hard drinker’s broken veins, he lives in a scruffy flat above a shop called the Hose and Bearing Company, on a narrow street of dilapidated terrace houses close to the Eurostar terminal in Ashford, Kent.
His power may have gone, but the destruction he wreaked on the Lawrence investigation lives long in the memory.
How far his tentacles extended into the Metropolitan Police is hard to ascertain, even after yesterday’s report by Mark Ellison QC, which suggested he had a corrupt relationship with Detective Sergeant John Davidson, who worked on the initial Lawrence murder inquiry.
This is partly because – disgracefully – many of the records have been destroyed in an apparent attempt to cover up the corruption which blighted the original inquiry.
It is also known that Norris once had a close relationship with at least one other officer, Detective Sergeant David Coles, of the Flying Squad. Coles told a police disciplinary inquiry that he had been cultivating Norris as an informant in the 1980s.
Investigators concluded that there was ‘a much closer relationship than Coles was prepared to admit to’. He was disciplined for a separate matter and dismissed, but reinstated at a lower rank on appeal.
The damage Norris caused to the Lawrence investigation began to unravel in the summer of 1994, a year after Stephen was killed, when a new senior detective, Bill Mellish, took charge of the case and decided it was time to sort out the ‘Norris problem’ once and for all.
Norris’s jailed son David +11
Gary Dobson was also jailed for Stephen’s murder +11
Jailed: Norris’s son David (left) and Gary Dobson (right) were both jailed for Stephen’s murder
Detectives believed that Norris had attempted to bribe a teenager called Stacey Benefield, who was stabbed by his tearaway son David in March 1993, a few weeks before Stephen’s death.
Shortly after Mr Benefield had left hospital, he was approached by one of his henchmen. He was said to have made the teenager an offer he couldn’t refuse: his boss (Clifford Norris) wanted to ‘make things right’.
According to police, the thug took Mr Benefield to an undisclosed location to meet Norris senior, who handed him £2,000 and said: ‘This is how I sort people out by not shooting them.’
At the subsequent trial, Mr Benefield changed his story and said he now could ‘not remember’ who had stabbed him. Amid allegations that the jury had been nobbled, David Norris was acquitted of attempted murder.
Murder squad chief Mr Mellish believed that in relation to the Lawrence case, Clifford Norris had ‘schooled’ his son and the other suspects in anti-surveillance techniques and the importance of keeping silent.
The breakthrough against the crime boss came when his team rummaged through a dustbin outside Norris’s home in Chislehurst, Kent, and found a birthday card addressed to his wife, Theresa ‘Tracie’ Norris.
They tailed her to a holiday cottage near Battle, in East Sussex, where they pounced on Norris. He was later convicted of conspiracy to import cannabis and related firearms offences and in June 1996 was jailed for nine and a half years. He was freed from Maidstone prison in January 2001.
By the time of his release, he had been abandoned by his lieutenants. His money had dried up, too. While behind bars, Customs ordered him to hand over £386,000 in drugs profits and seized his mansion in Chislehurst, Kent, claiming it was bought with the proceeds of crime. His wife also left him.
Today he spends most days watching daytime TV – his favourites include The Jeremy Kyle Show, This Morning and Loose Women.
There are occasional visits to the off-licence to stock up on alcohol and to his local, a particularly grotty haunt of heavy drinkers and fellow down and outs.
Approached by the Mail yesterday, he said: ‘I’ve got nothing to say to you about anyone.
‘I’ve got no questions to answer, it’s got nothing to do with me. It’s 20-odd years old, it’s too old for me now all this. I don’t know anything about a report, I can’t comment.’
Asked about his son’s conviction for Stephen Lawrence’s murder, he said: ‘I don’t agree with that.’
Disgraced detective to be questioned over claims he helped shield Stephen’s killers
Retirement in the sun: Former detective John Davidson outside his bar in Menorca in 2006 +11
Retirement in the sun: Former detective John Davidson outside his bar in Menorca in 2006
A detective who investigated the murder of Stephen Lawrence is expected to be questioned by police over claims he helped shield the teenager’s killers.
The National Crime Agency will probe claims that former Detective Sergeant John Davidson had a corrupt relationship with Clifford Norris, father of one of the original Lawrence suspects, during the early stages of the investigation.
Last night speculation was mounting that Davidson could be questioned on suspicion of misconduct in a public office or perverting the cause of justice – both of which carry heavy jail terms – by Britain’s new crime fighting force.
Mark Ellison’s hard-hitting review of the Lawrence case concluded there is evidence to suspect Davidson had acted corruptly. The QC said there was a high level of suspicion that the former officer was corrupt both before and after he worked on the Lawrence investigation.
And there were still lines of inquiry that may be capable of providing evidence of corruption among other officers, although that evidence did not currently exist, his review added.
His bombshell conclusion is a major embarrassment to Scotland Yard which two years ago dismissed renewed corruption claims against Davidson. The officer, who has previously denied sabotaging the Lawrence investigation, could not be reached for comment last night.
He is thought to be running a bar/restaurant on the island of Menorca, where he retired after controversially escaping prosecution over a series of police corruption allegations.
In 2006, former Met Assistant Commissioner John Yates told a BBC programme about the Lawrence case he had no doubt that Davidson was corrupt.
But in his report into the Lawrence case, published in 1999, Sir William Macpherson criticised Mr Davidson’s conduct but did not accuse him of corruption: ‘We are not convinced DS Davidson positively tried to thwart the investigation.’
Now it seems it will only be a matter of time before officers from the NCA track him down to quiz him over his role in the Lawrence case. The claims against him originate from a former corrupt colleague turned supergrass called Neil Putnam.
In late July 1998, Scotland Yard’s Anti-Corruption Command held a debriefing with former Detective Constable Putnam, in which he alleged that Mr Davidson had admitted he had a corrupt relationship with Clifford Norris.
Retreat: Davidson is thought to be running a bar/restaurant on the island of Menorca, where he retired after controversially escaping prosecution over a series of police corruption allegations (file photo) +11
Retreat: Davidson is thought to be running a bar/restaurant on the island of Menorca, where he retired after controversially escaping prosecution over a series of police corruption allegations (file photo)
In his report yesterday, Mr Ellison said that both the intelligence picture suggesting Mr Davidson was a corrupt officer and the content of Mr Putnam’s debriefing should have been revealed to Sir William Macpherson’s public inquiry – but it was not.
‘It is a source of some concern to us that nobody in the MPS (Metropolitan Police Service) who was aware of the detail of what Neil Putnam was saying about Mr Davidson appears to have thought to ask him about Mr Davidson’s motives in the Lawrence case,’ the report stated. Mr Ellison said that, while independent corroboration of Mr Putnam’s allegation did not currently exist, there were ‘outstanding lines of inquiry’ that could be investigated, which may change that assessment.
Davidson, a tough-talking ‘old school’ detective who began his career as a constable in Glasgow, joined the Lawrence investigation within 36 hours of the stabbing in Eltham, south-east London in April 1993.
He is said to have mishandled a key informant known as ‘James Grant’ who had just identified David Norris and others as suspects for the murder. He also arrested and interviewed Gary Dobson and carried out the interview of another suspect, Luke Knight.
In the Macpherson report he was criticised as ‘self-willed and abrasive’ and offering ‘undoubtedly unsatisfactory’ evidence. However the inquiry panel concluded: ‘We are not convinced that DS Davidson positively tried to thwart the effectiveness of the investigation.’
But it is now know that over four months between July and October 1998, as Sir William Macpherson continued to take evidence at his inquiry, Putnam detailed shocking corruption at East Dulwich branch of the regional crime squad.
This included three specific acts of dishonesty he claimed to have carried out with Davidson and an informant they managed together: the disposal of stolen watches, handling stolen electrical equipment, and the theft of cocaine from a drug dealer.
Putnam says he told investigators that Davidson had one day casually admitted to him that he was in a corrupt relationship with Clifford Norris. Davidson was allowed to retire on ill health grounds to run a bar on the island of Menorca after prosecutors decided there was a lack of corroborating evidence.
In 2006, the Lawrence family asked the Independent Police Complaints Commission to investigate Putnam’s claims to Panorama that the Met failed to disclose to the Macpherson inquiry what he had told them of a Davidson-Norris link.
The police watchdog said in 2007 it could not find evidence for Putnam’s Panorama allegations.
Two years ago, when there were new claims about Davidson’s links to Norris, the Met was dismissive.
It said Davidson ‘was subject to an in-depth corruption investigation’ but there was never any evidence of him being involved in corrupt activity within the Lawrence inquiry ‘or doing anything to thwart that investigation’.
The Met added: ‘We do not consider that any new or significant information has emerged.’
By STEPHEN WRIGHT
PUBLISHED: 23:37 GMT, 6 March 2014 | UPDATED: 08:09 GMT, 7 March 2014
© Associated Newspapers Ltd