Counter-terror police gathering evidence of potential war crimes in Ukraine say they have been struck by the “incredibly harrowing” material and eyewitness accounts from the frontline of the conflict.
The Metropolitan Police’s War Crimes Team, a unit within its counter-terrorism command (CTC), said it had already received around 50 referrals from people with a link to the UK.
These include those who have directly fled the conflict in the last two months since Russia began invading.
Scotland Yard announced last month that it was supporting the International Criminal Court (ICC) probe into alleged war crimes, and appealed for anyone with direct evidence to come forward.
Detective Chief Superintendent Dominic Murphy, providing an update on the evidence gathering operation as CTC head of operations, said: “What we’re seeing is incredibly harrowing, beyond comprehension
“In not far off 17 years in counterterrorism, (it is) some of the worst possible footage you could imagine seeing.”
He said it would be up to the judicial authority to decide whether the material and testimonies gathered so far – which are being tested to a UK evidential standard – could be used to support a charge of genocide.
It comes just more than a week after ITV News investigated three separate war crimes, which are representative of the senseless killing meted out in so many towns and cities by Vladimir Putin’s army.
Mr Murphy said: “Does it provide evidence of a war crime? Quite possibly.
“Does it provide evidence of other international crimes? Quite possibly.
“And then it’s for those prosecuting agencies that we provide the information to to make those sorts of judgments and decisions.
“We’re really committed to supporting the best possible outcome here and that is getting justice for victims and the best evidence.”
In a special report for News at Ten earlier in April, ITV News investigated three separate atrocities in Bucha which give a sense of the widespread, indiscriminate murder being carried out by the Russian army
He said every frontline police officer in the country has been briefed in the last two months on how to support those who come forward with evidence.
Officers based at ports and borders are also asking people arriving into the UK whether they may have any evidence for the ICC investigation.
This is particularly important as more Ukrainians are granted refugee status in the UK, police said.
Mr Murphy added: “We’re putting in place processes and procedures that we want to embed into everybody’s subconscious so that when more people arrive here in the UK, we are better able to capture that.
“We need to remember that people are actually experiencing this, and some of the people arriving in this country would have experienced it or been much closer to it than any of us can imagine.”
Police said they wanted to gather as much first-hand evidence as possible.
This could be in the form of messages which Ukrainians have sent to relatives in the UK, and video footage filmed on camera phones by those in conflict zones.
It does not include anything sourced from social media or seen as part of news reports.
Mr Murphy said the force was “utterly committed” to not reducing the strength of national security and counterterrorism work while it was supporting the war crimes investigation.