Important documents, whose disappearance led to the collapse of Britain’s biggest ever corruption trial, have been found in boxes held by South Wales Police.
Yesterday, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, ordered a full inquiry into the collapse of a trial of eight police officers accused of perverting the course of justice during the 1988 hunt for the murderer of Lynette White in Cardiff.
The trial collapsed in December and the officers were acquitted after the judge ruled they could no longer get a fair trial as certain documents were thought to have been shredded.
Then later yesterday IPCC commissioner Sarah Green released a statement to say they had not been destroyed after all.
“The Independent Police Complaints Commission has now verified that the documents that the Lynette White trial at Swansea Crown Court on 1 December 2011 was told may have been destroyed have been discovered and were not shredded as first thought,” she stated.
“The court was told that some enquiries had been made about documents relating to complaints made to the IPCC itself and that it seemed that these documents may have been shredded on the orders of South Wales Police Senior Investigating Officer Chris Coutts.
“The documents were found in the original boxes that the IPCC had sent through to SWP as part of the trial disclosure process in 2009. These boxes were still in the possession of SWP and have subsequently been verified.
“The IPCC investigation has not yet concluded and will also need to establish what happened to these two files of documents. The IPCC will also continue to liaise with the review being carried out by the Director of Public Prosecutions. We have of course informed the Director of Public Prosecutions about the discovery of these documents.
“The IPCC will of course publish its findings in due course.”
A friend of one of the men originally accused of Lynette White’s murder during the botched investigation told The Guardian: “The whole thing gets more bizarre by the minute. Did this whole trial collapse because they lost a box or two of documents? It beggars belief. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so depressing.”
And a close friend of another of the men, Tony Paris, who was wrongfully jailed for the murder and had given evidence to the police corruption trial before its collapse, said: “This is just unbelievable. How much pressure can they put these men under? It all defies belief.”
The question for the authorities now is whether, following the discovery of the “shredded” documents, the police officers can be re-tried.