Two investigations into why a multi-million pound trial collapsed have cleared a detective of ordering the destruction of vital documents, but have identified failings in the way complex evidence is prepared for court.
It follows the collapse of a corruption trial of 8 former police officers and 2 other civilians involved in the original Lynette White murder trial which led to the wrongful conviction of 3 men in April 1990, who became known as the 'Cardiff Three'. South Wales Police had conducted an 8 year investigation to discover why the three men had been wrongly prosecuted.
When the trial sensationally collapsed in December 2011 it was suggested that the Senior Investigating Officer had ordered the destruction of two documents which couldn't be immediately located. Just weeks later, the documents in question were found in storage in the incident room. Their whereabouts during the trial prompted the inquiry by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
Today, IPCC Commissioner Sarah Green said: "I have concluded on the balance of probabilities that no instruction was ever given by the senior investigating officer, or any other officer, to destroy the documents. In fact, the finding of these documents proves the veracity of the officers' accounts that the documents had not been destroyed. The report also points once the issue of the missing documents had been raised, no attempt was made by South Wales Police to find them.
"However, mistakes were made by individual officers in relation to the receipt, recording and storage of the documents which meant that the documents could not easily be located."
At the same time that the IPCC decided to investigate the ‘shredded' documents, the Director of Public Prosecution asked HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate to undertake an independent review of the whole disclosure process at the trial.
Today that investigation found that there were failings in the way the Prosecution case was managed. The HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate found that the Prosecution counsel 'did not have sufficient collective experience for the very unusual burdens placed on them by a case which was extremely difficult to prosecute.' But it did acknowledge that there was no evidence to suggest prosecutors or police acted for any improper reason. It went on to say that the problem with the missing documents would not have arisen if the correct decisions about the disclosure of evidence had been taken as far back as 2009, two years before the trial collapse.
Estimates have put the cost to the public purse for the failed prosecution at up to £30m.
Lynette White was working as a prostitute in Cardiff Bay when she was stabbed to death on Valentine's Day in 1988. In 2003, Jeffrey Gafoor pleaded guilty to her murder after South Wales Police uncovered new evidence, including a DNA profile of the killer.
Of the three men wrongly convicted of the murder in 1990, Yusef Abdullahi, now deceased, Stephen Miller and Anthony Paris have continued to call for a public inquiry into why they were prosecuted for a crime they didn't commit. More than 25-years after Lynette White's murder and millions of pounds spent on investigations, we still don't know what caused the most spectacular miscarriage of justice in Welsh criminal history.