‘Don’t do anything stupid. We’ve got your wife’

As one who frequently sits in court press seats, directly opposite jury boxes, it might be said that I am moderately qualified to pass comment on the vagaries of a system that sees the fate of defendants, accused of serious crimes, decided by twelve of their community peers.

The prosecution present the case as to why the Crown (or State) believe the accused is guilty, then the defence barrister will answer the allegations. Each will usually bring witnesses to speak either for, or against, the defendant(s) and there are often exhibits in the form of documents, records, clothing, photographs, and sometimes, weapons. Experts, of varying qualification and authority, can be deployed to give evidence for either side.

It is what is known as an adversarial system. Where the most refined arguments on the applicable law and the more compelling evidence of fact succeed, in theory at least. Compared to, for example, an inquest, or courts in some other European countries, where the process is inquisitorial. A search for the truth.

At the end of the evidential stage of a trial, counsel (barristers, or QC’s where the charges are serious) for both the prosecution and defence will each make a closing speech, addressed directly to the jury, which comprises the best of their arguments and highlights the evidence that they believe falls in favour of either the Crown or the defendant. Often, and for very good reason, they are highly emotive – and regarded by many as the key components in a trial.

Immediately following the speeches, the trial judge ‘sums up’ the arguments and evidence. Stressing all the time, that he, or quite often she, these days, is the arbiter on law only; decisions on facts are for the jury alone. What a judge may consider important the jury may not, and vice versa.

Having given the jury directions on the law – and how it applies in the particular case being tried – a jury bailiff is sworn in and the twelve men and women, from all walks of life, are sent to the jury room to deliberate. Under strict instructions not to discusss the case, except when they are all together in that room. They are also warned about researching any details about the case on the internet, or discussing it at home or with friends. Their verdict is reached only on the evidence they have heard  in court – and the judge will remind them that it for the Crown to prove guilt, not for the defendant to prove his innocence.

The judge will also urge them to reach a unanimous verdict when they are sure the defendant is either guilty or not guilty. If the jury is ‘hung’, that is to say not all of them agree on a verdict, the judge will take soundings from both prosecuting and defending counsel as to how long must pass before the court should allow a verdict based on the majority of jurors. Either 10-2, or 11-1, if all 12 jurors are still sitting.

If the jury finds the defendant guilty, the judge hears from both counsel again – and then passes sentence: The prosecution will present the views of the victim, often in the form of an impact statement, and advocate for what is believed to be an appropriate sentence, within the guidelines. Defence counsel mitigate, as best they can, on behalf of their client. In the case of a not guilty verdict, the defendant is released from the court dock soon after the verdict and free to go about his daily business, no doubt chastened by the experience. The guilty take the slow walk down the dock steps to custody.

Nothing about the deliberations of the jury can be made public, either during or after the trial. But the judge, using his experience and knowledge of the case, will apply their fact finding when passing sentence and making his accompanying remarks. In the higher profile criminal cases, the ‘Sentencing Remarks’ are made public and widely distributed.

Following a four week trial in Teesside Crown Court, during March and April, 2011, a 45 year old man, Robin Joseph Garbutt, was found guilty of the murder of his wife, Diana, at the village store and post office they ran at Melsonby, in the Richmondshire district of North Yorkshire. The jury were split 10-2, a majority verdict. They had deliberated for over thirteen hours, but took only a very short time after the judge released them from their obligation to return a unanimous verdict.

The heinous crime was committed just over a year earlier, on 23rd March, 2010, and attracted a large amount of press attention; not least because it was said that an armed robbery had taken place, in which a large amount of cash was stolen. The widely held assumption, at that time, was that Mrs Garbutt had been killed by those same robbers during the raid. The local police force were under enormous pressure to ‘get a result’.

At first, it appeared that the police had accepted Robin Garbutt’s account of the robbery, and the circumstances in which Diana had died. But three weeks later, the innocuous, well-liked and respected local man was arrested by North Yorkshire Police in an early morning swoop, held in custody and questioned for 5 days. After which, he was charged with his wife’s murder.

Garbutt, it later emerged, had been suspected of a false narrative, by the police, within a short time of them arriving on the scene in the picture postcard village. They were concerned that he continually questioned the opinion of the paramedic attending the murder scene who had told him that rigor mortis had set in and there were also clear signs of hypostasis (blood pooling in tissue where her heart had stopped), indicators that death had occurred at least an hour earlier and, more likely, several hours previously. There appeared to be no good reason, when apparently almost hysterical over the death of his wife, why he would do so. The nett effect was to invite closer attention to the armed robbery narrative.

At the time of his arrest, the police said that there were inconsistencies in his account of what had taken place on the fateful day, and the background to it. Exactly a week after the murder, Detective Superintendent Lewis Raw said “The investigation is very complex and it will take some time to complete all avenues of investigation”. The first sign, publicly, that the police were not treating this as an armed robbery gone wrong.

At trial, it emerged that Garbutt had further aroused police suspicions by painting a rosy picture of the marriage and the village store business. But, in reality, the prosecution presented the jury with a very different picture: A woman sexually unfulfilled and with a constantly roving eye – and rising debts which, at the time of the murder, amounted, jointly, to over £44,000, plus a £60,000 mortgage on the property. They had seven credit cards between them, all running at or near the credit limit.

Diana, it was heard in court, ‘had lost interest in the business’ and it had been on the market for around 5 years, with little or no buyer activity.

She had told one of her male dalliances, in an email message, that her marriage was ‘doomed’. The court also heard that the Garbutts had seen a Relate counsellor, regarding their sexual incompatibility, and discussed splitting up, with Diana renting a room elsewhere in Melsonby village. At trial, Robin dismissed this as being ‘long in the past’ even though it was just over a year ago.

Comprehensive and highly forensic analysis of the personal finances of the couple, the village shop and the post office was put before the jury and they heard live evidence from Teresa Bentley, a specialist economic crime investigator who had full access to all the couple’s personal and business bank accounts, credit card accounts. She was, also, assisted by a Post Office fraud investigator, Andrew Keighley. The jury heard from the latter that there were ‘irregularities’ over the Post Office record keeping and Mrs Bentley told the court that there were regular, substantial cash sums sent to the bank, via special delivery. Her reports, included in the jury bundle, tended to show that it was these cash deposits, about which there was scant explanation from Robin Garbutt, that were keeping their business and personal finances afloat.

In 2009, the couple, who married six years earlier, had eight holidays, including weekends in Amsterdam, paying two visits to the Hard Rock Cafe, and trips to York, Paris and Northumberland. Two of their other weekend trips to Bolton Abbey cost £1200 and £800 respectively. A week or so after the murder they were due to fly to the United States for a three-week holiday at a cost of £3,000 (Diana’s father was American and she had dual nationality). When the prosecution advanced the view, in cross-examination, that the Garbutts were living well beyond their visible means, Robin denied that. He told the court that not all the business takings went through the till [Which, of course, means that VAT and income tax returns were, demonstrably, false]. Diana’s Post Office salary was £14,500 and the shop was, at best, showing a very small profit. In the months leading up to the murder the shop was losing a significant amount of money, according to the police analysis, although defence counsel, James Hill QC, did question the actual amount that was put before the jury (around £14,000).

The trial, and the verdict reached by the jury, appeared to turn on just two key findings: The time at which the murder occurred and whether, or not, the alleged armed robbery took place. The judge, in his summing up, had made it clear that the Crown did not have to prove motive, only the charge on the indictment. That is the law as it stands.

Much of the witness evidence heard at trial, on behalf of the prosecution, was to dispel the widely held myth in the village that all was perfect in the Garbutt marriage – and their business enterprise was flourishing. The court also heard many glowing personal testimonies about the couple, and Robin; and the judge, of course, drew equal attention to those.

He also explained that, in the circumstances of this particular case, a verdict of manslaughter was not available to the jury.  Robin Garbutt was either guilty, or not guilty, of the murder of his wife, Diana. If he didn’t commit the crime, then the jury verdict would point to the armed robber(s). That was how the police and prosecutor had, some might say very cleverly, constructed the case. Their strategy, for example, excluded the possibility that there was a third party involved in a conspiracy to murder, who may well have struck the fatal blows whilst Garbutt was serving in the shop downstairs.

David Hatton QC, prosecuting, said propitiously: “One of the questions you will have to consider, if you accept this evidence [of a robbery taking place], is the likelihood of a robber, or robbers, being prepared to violently kill a female sleeping in her own bed, at all; but then, having done so, to wait for [four to six hours]* before going downstairs to rob the post office.

“And then, it has to be said, having been prepared to bludgeon the lady to death upstairs and wait for that length of time, to leave the defendant himself unharmed and unrestrained to raise the alarm.”

The timing* of the murder has, before, during and after the trial, created huge controversy. The prosecution say it happened between 2.30am and 4.30am, the defence assert that it was after 6.45am. Those competing arguments, along with the other matters around which the Garbutt miscarriage of justice campaign is focused, is the subject of analysis in a separate article in which I conclude from, it must be strongly emphasised, a non-scientific standpoint, but after weighing all the evidence heard in court and the counterclaims regarding the food digestion analysis since the trial, that the attack occured between 5.40 and 7.10am.

The first paramedic on the scene, Michael Whitaker, gave evidence to the effect that Diana had died around 35 minutes after the attack. It is unclear from the available documents upon what that opinion is based, but it appeared not to be challenged in court. In evidence he said that, upon arrival at the scene of the murder, there was no electrical activity in her heart and her arm was solid with rigor mortis. The court heard: “I assumed that the lady had been deceased for quite some time.” Under cross-examination, Mr Whitaker told Mr Hill that he could not say for certain how long she had been dead for.

The issue of whether the robbery took place, or not, is more compact, does not involve complex science, and amounts, quite simply, to whether the account of Robin Garbutt can withstand scrutiny. So, readers of the present article are invited to put themselves in that jury box, test the evidence and reach their own verdict.

The narrative account of the robbery given to the police on the day of the murder was repeated, more or less, in the witness box at trial. It boils down to what took place between and 08.35.54 and 08.37.13 on Tuesday 23rd March, 2010. A total of 79 seconds.

During that time from the opening of the safe, recorded both within the deposit box itself and centrally at Post Office HQ, and the 999 call being answered, this is what is said to have happened:

~ Garbutt was in the post office booth, within the shop, having just opened the safe, when he heard a noise from behind the shop door that connected to the staircase leading up to the living quarters.

~ After opening the safe, but before he was disturbed, he had removed the A4 book containing postage stamps. He had also removed the compartmentalised tray containing the coins that fitted in the post ofice till.

~ He left the booth and moved towards the door thinking he would be greeted by his wife. Instead he was met by a masked man, in dark clothing, holding a gun down by his side.

~ The robber told Garbutt: “Don’t do anything stupid, we’ve got your wife upstairs”.

~ He was then instructed to turn off the lights in the shop and lock the front door. In court, it was heard that he slid across the top bolt on that door.

~ He then returned to the booth and filled a black holdall with over £16,000 in denominations of £20, £10 and £5 notes.

~ Emerging from the booth, he then went around to the back of the shop counter and emptied the contents of the till into the holdall, on the instructions of the robber.

~ At this point the armed robber left the shop, via the connecting door and the back door to the premises, which Garbutt says he had left unlocked when offloading stock for the shop, from his car, earlier that morning between 4.30am and 6.00am.

~ Garbutt was warned by the armed robber not to move.

~ The back door, apparently, had not been locked by the robber(s) after they gained entry.

All of the above actions, mostly by a man seemingly paralysed by fear, and with one eye on the gun in the robber’s hand, had taken just 20 seconds, says Garbutt. Emphatically.

This is a picture of the interior of the shop which may aid readers’ understanding and assessment:

Screenshot 2020-03-29 at 14.16.53

The silent alarms, which connected to the police control room via a central monitoring station, had not been activated. One was in the booth near the safe, another was next to the shop till and a third was by the connecting door. Garbutt explained this to the police, and later in court, by saying, firstly, that ‘he was caught in the agony of the moment’ and, secondly, he did not know the alarms were silent, despite the court hearing evidence that he had been instructed twice in their use by Post Office technicians. It also emerged in court that he had taught one of his shop assistants, Linda Sharp, some months earlier on how to use the alarms and explained their effect.

~ After the robber had left, and without having sight or sound of any other robber whom, according to the thief in the shop, was holding Diana captive, Garbutt says he raced upstairs, passing the silent alarm button near the connecting door.

~ He arrived in doorway of the spare bedroom to see his wife face down on the bed, her head in a pool of blood that had spread out on the pillow beneath her.

~ The husband of the wife he told the court he adored, did not offer any first aid, or even check whether she was dead or alive.

~ From there he went to the living room on the first floor and dialled 999 to report the robbery and injuries to his wife. He did not tell the emergency operator whether she was dead, or not.

~ Garbutt told the operator that the robber(s) had made good their escape, although he had no knowledge of that. He did not check the direction in which they were headed or whether they were, in fact, lying low on or around his property. No other person in the village, or elsewhere, had sight of them at any time on that morning.

There is no account of Garbutt searching for, or calling out to, the other robber(s) said by the gunman to be holding Diana captive. Or arming himself to confront or defend himself from an attack from the second robber that he must have believed was present, with his wife, thus ensuring compliance with the instructions from the robber who appeared in the shop. Garbutt told the police, when later interviewed as a suspect, that the robber did not have the iron bar in his hand. Also, he could not explain how the robber had, apparently, no blood on his clothing.

The defence, at trial, relied on the report of another almost identical robbery at the same village shop exactly 53 weeks earlier, on 17th March, 2009. The court heard Garbutt’s account of how, at about 8.30am, he had been confronted by two hooded men, with their faces covered, one pointing a gun at him, as he opened the post office safe. They escaped with around £11,000 in cash and a valuable A4 book of stamps. Garbutt did not activate the silent alarms on that occasion, either. Diana, the court heard, was upstairs in the living quarters and heard nothing. No-one in the village saw or heard anything, either. It remains as an unsolved case. The prosecution elected not to take a view on whether the robbery described by Garbutt took place, or not. It was left for the jury to decide as part of their fact-finding matrix.

Robin Garbutt has always vehemently denied murdering a woman he says he loved so very dearly. His soulmate, whom the jury heard was ‘as close as close could be’. He has also consistently maintained that the armed robbery DID take place and one of the robbers (or later distilled at trial to a single robber) killed Diana as she lay in her bed. 10 of the 12 jurors did not believe him. Neither does Diana’s mother, Agnes Gaylor, who sat through the entire criminal trial. The village of Melsonby is still split over the verdict.

Passing sentence, Mr Justice Openshaw pulled no punches. He said the defendant had shown no remorse over the death of his wife, adding: ‘He has always accompanied his lies with sanctimonious lies of his love for her’.

‘By their verdict, the jury have exposed this as pure humbug.’

‘This was a brutal, planned, cold-blooded murder of his wife as she lay sleeping in bed.’

‘There was no struggle, she never awoke. He struck three savage blows, smashing her skull and causing her immediate death as clearly he intended’.

The story of the armed robber he said was ‘ludicrous from beginning to end’.

The defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment, with a recommendation that he serve at least 20 years. Sir Peter Openshaw DL, as he is now styled, is a judge with whom I am particularly familiar, in terms of style, tone, compendious knowledge of the law and procedural rules. Having been in his court for very many days of the hearings of the first Hillsborough trials across a period of over two years.  There has never been any criticism of his handling of the Garbutt trial, or the way it was summed up, except that he was keen to keep it on track in terms of length of trial. That also featured in all the hearings at Preston Crown Court, and so it does in every other Crown Court on my beat. It is what judges do: Effective listing and timetabling are significant parts of their oversight role. Openshaw ran his courts with almost military precision, matching that familiar stiff gait to and from his seat on the bench.

Xanthe Tait, Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor for North Yorkshire and Humberside, said after the trial: ‘Diana Garbutt’s life was cut brutally and tragically short. Her family is left to forever mourn her loss.

‘She was violently bludgeoned to death. A callous crime motivated by the basest of human characteristics.

‘Robin Garbutt went to great lengths in creating a cover story involving a robber with a gun: a story he maintained throughout the trial – lying about his finances, lying about his relationship with his wife and lying about the robbery – to conceal his appalling crimes.

‘We have worked closely with the police to build a robust prosecution case and secure justice for Diana. Our thoughts are with her family and we hope that today’s conviction will bring them some measure of comfort and peace.’

Ms Tait, for the past several years, has led a three-force collaboration group which aims to bring the legal services departments of Cleveland, Durham and North Yorkshire Police together in a project codenamed ‘Evolve’. She was a high-achieving prosecutor, widely respected by her peers.

Since his incarceration, a highly visible campaign group has formed around Robin Garbutt. They are energetically, and passionately, led by Jane Metcalfe, a friend from the time when he lived in York, together with Garbutt’s sister, Sallie Wood, and brother-in-law, Mark Stilborn.

In the past few months, regional and national newspaper coverage, an article in Private Eye, and packages on the two local TV news programmes, ITV Calendar and Look North, has kept the miscarriage of justice claim very much in the public eye. A third application to the Criminal Case Review Commission (CCRC) is the trigger for the publicity. An appeal to the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal was dismissed in May, 2012. Two subsequent applications to the CCRC were also dismissed.

A website set up and maintained by the campaigners can be viewed here. Whereas the presentation is rudimentary, the message is very strong: Robin has always told the truth and he could not possibly have committed the crime. It promises so much, but delivers surprisingly little by way of references to substantive evidential material.

The ever-present assertion of unwavering truthfulness of Robin Garbutt has little or no basis in fact. Whilst those same campaigners, and the convicted murderer, have refused me access to his witness statements to the police, the merest examination of his witness box testimony reveals gaping holes and alarming contradictions in his story.

Why deny a journalist, approaching the case as one who has very good, and well evidenced, reason to doubt just about anything that North Yorkshire Police do or say, over a very lengthy period, access to any of the case materials? Unless there is something to hide from an independent investigator?

Another journalist, the late Bob Woffinden, also contributed significantly to the campaign in 2016, before his sad passing in May 2018, and his article (read in full here starting on page 14) certainly raised its profile and credibility at the time. However, to locate his work on the internet requires a little persistence. There is no link to it from the campaign website. A petition protesting Robin Garbutt’s innocence, propagated from there, has gathered just 54 signatures. William Hague (now Baron Hague of Richmond), who retired in 2015, is listed as Robin Garbutt’s MP. In fact, his representative now is the very high profile Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak MP.

The past and present MP’s have both have been contacted for comment on the campaign and to establish whether they have added support in any way. A response is awaited and will, very understandably, be delayed in the case of Mr Sunak.

The Garbutt campaigners declined to provide a statement for this article, despite being prolific elsewhere. A request for answers to a series of straightforward questions about the background to the events of 22nd/23rd March 2010 was also declined.

Dr Michael Naughton, an academic whom, it is claimed, supports the campaign, did not acknowledge or reply to an email asking for details of his analysis of the case or the grounds upon which he has based his support. Dr Naughton does, of course, have at least one blemish on his miscarriage of justice record; the case of Simon Hall for whom he was the leading advocate for five years. The convicted murderer actually confessed to the crime in 2013 (read more here). The parallels with the Garbutt case are, on any independent view, stark. The discomfort when this is drawn to the attention of his campaigners is palpable.

By way of a carefully framed, plainly expressed freedom of information request, North Yorkshire Police were asked on 30th January, 2020 to provide basic details of the murder probe, the usual foundation stones of a properly grounded journalistic investigation. Two months later, they are yet to respond to the request, or an application for internal review (read in full here). Those that check out the details will see that NYP are prepared, arguably, to commit a criminal offence to avoid disclosure. That, it might be said, is a measure of the habitual fear they have of the type of relentless scrutiny they face from this quarter. The lurking presence of Xanthe Tait, as the ultimate arbiter of that disclosure decision, and particularly with her colours now firmly nailed to the NYP mast, cannot be overlooked.

Screenshot 2020-03-29 at 19.25.53
Xanthe Tait, formerly Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor and, more latterly, deeply embedded in North Yorkshire Police.

As it happens, I now have most of the requested details, from independent sources, of Operation Nardoo, the police codename for the Garbutt investigation, which form the basis of the third article, in a series of at least three, covering the Garbutt case. The product of almost 200 hours, over the past two months, invested in this most puzzling case and one in which the judge expressed serious, and well justified, concerns about the police management of the crime scene: ‘A regrettable lack of professionalism’.

It is safe to to say, supported by a lengthy and highly attritional history (for example, I have taken them to court twice and defeated them), that NYP will not enjoy the intensity of the spotlight that I routinely turn onto them.

The police press office was not contacted, as it is some years since they responded to any enquiry from this quarter, despite my press accreditation by the National Police Chiefs Council and, of course, their lawful obligation to do so by way of section 39A of the Police Act, 1996.

This, as the reader may have gleaned already is a story with some way to run. The next instalment will be published within the next week or so.

Page last updated: Monday 29th March, 2020 at 2225 hours

Photo Credits: Press Association, North Yorkshire Police.

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© Neil Wilby 2015-2020. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

MP to seek second adjournment debate

Exactly six years ago, at the end of the day’s Parliamentary business, Gerry Sutcliffe rose to his feet from the green leather benches to begin his contribution to an adjournment debate on the subject of the John Elam miscarriage of justice case. This is what he had to say:

“I am pleased to see the Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims in his place. I do not expect him to be able to respond in detail to the important issues that I will raise, but perhaps while he listens to my speech he will reflect on what advice he can give on the best course of action to take the matter forward.

“The last case that I raised in which I felt a serious injustice had been done was that of Private Lee Clegg, a soldier in Northern Ireland who was convicted of murder. After the intervention of his solicitor, Simon McKay, other Members from both Houses and myself, he was eventually cleared of the crime.

“I want to make it clear that I do not raise these matters lightly. On the whole, our legal system is fair and just. It was with great pleasure and pride that I served as a Minister in the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice under the last Government. I therefore raise this case knowing the confines within which Ministers may speak because of operational issues and the legal process. I raise this case this evening because a number of things have happened that have made me want to put it on the record.

“Mr John Elam was convicted of a conspiracy to commit fraud and received a 10-and-a-half-year jail sentence in April 2008. He has now been released on licence. He has always maintained his innocence and has sought to appeal against his imprisonment. He had an appeal in 2010 that was turned down.

“A constituent of mine came to see me to raise his concerns about the safety of the conviction and the role of certain officers in West Yorkshire Police. As you will know, Madam Deputy Speaker, Members of Parliament are approached by many people who feel that the legal system has operated against them. Sometimes it is difficult to unravel what the issues really are. As any other constituency MP would do, I wrote to the appropriate Departments and West Yorkshire police, and I contacted Mr Elam’s then solicitors, Keith Dyson and Partners. I also had meetings with the West Yorkshire Police Commissioner [Mark Burns-Williamson].

“My interest was stirred even more when differing accounts of the case emerged. According to West Yorkshire Police, Mr Elam was an international criminal who had connections to the Russian mafia and was involved in money laundering and the drugs trade. However, according to his solicitor, Mr Elam was the victim of police intimidation and a dirty tricks campaign, which included a lack of disclosure at his appeal. I am not a lawyer, so I was unsure what legal avenues were available to resolve the conflicting stories. As MPs do, I asked around, seeking advice and receiving information from many sources. The responses led to my interest in the case deepening further.

“Mr Elam had only one previous conviction, for common assault—he threw a Toby jug at a pub landlord. How did that minor criminal evolve into an alleged international criminal? According to West Yorkshire Police, they were interested in Mr Elam in 2005 and sought approval to have him monitored and placed under surveillance as a dangerous criminal. Operation Teddington was set up, and a very large amount of resources was spent on the process. Covert action was used to monitor the bank accounts of the Medina Trading Company, which consisted of a restaurant and a car wash. Mr Elam has always admitted his involvement with the Medina company and its directors.

“The Yorkshire Bank held the accounts of the Medina company, and an employee of the bank at that time, Mr Richard Shires, passed on information relating to the accounts, and cheques, to DC Mick Casey of West Yorkshire Police, as confirmed by affidavit. During my investigations into the matter, I have submitted a number of freedom of information requests to West Yorkshire Police, through which I have discovered that a person called Mr Richard Shires was a serving special constable in West Yorkshire Police at the time the information was passed on. I have also discovered that a person called Mr Richard Shires subsequently became a paid constable in West Yorkshire Police and continues to serve to this day. I have tried to discover through a recent freedom of information request whether those Richard Shires were one and the same, but at this time I have not been provided with that information.

“If those Richard Shires were one and the same, there was a clear conflict of interest, and more to the point, the credibility of the information and cheques passed to DC Casey would be called into doubt. I think all would agree that it would never be appropriate for a bank employee who was also a serving special constable to assist with the inquiries of the very same police force he worked for.

“At the trial, the Crown was represented by Mr Jonathan Sandiford. No evidence was given about the wider concerns relating to Mr Elam’s criminal associations. In fact, Mr Sandiford stated: The prosecution case here is that the conspirators sought to conceal the fact that Mr Elam was the true owner of the companies acquiring the business in order to defraud creditors’.

“In summing up the case, His Honour Judge Wolstenholme said to the jury that ‘….what you must do is take the view that, well, something dishonest was going on with one or more of the defendants. They must all have been up to something, even if you are not sure what.’

“Subsequently, Mr Elam was convicted.

“Mr Elam’s case, supported by his legal team, portrays an entirely different account of the chain of events. Mr Elam claims that he was approached in the summer of 2004 by a police officer demanding £150,000 in cash to be paid immediately, and £30,000 annually thereafter. In March 2005, the police investigated Mr Elam’s business practices using the covert name Operation Teddington. It is alleged that, in June 2005, 49 officers were redeployed from the anti-terrorist taskforce to work on Teddington.

“As I said, in September 2005, Richard Shires was a paid employee of the Yorkshire Bank. He accessed bank accounts relating to the Medina restaurant and secured more than 3,000 cancelled cheques. A written affidavit by Mr Shires confirms that he delivered a bundle of those cheques to DC Casey. The Yorkshire Bank also confirms that it never received an order to produce from the courts.

“In 2006, John Elam was arrested, and then the Crown court trial began. Despite a wide-ranging three-year investigation, involving more than 300 officers, Mr Elam faced a single charge of conspiracy to commit fraud. He was convicted and served his sentence in HMP Wakefield as a category A prisoner, the highest security level. He had also been treated as a category A prisoner during his time on remand. Mr Elam suffered a stroke in prison and needed external medical support.

“It is my contention that, whatever the true situation, a number of questions remain unanswered and there are a number of public interest concerns. First, was a production order properly served to Yorkshire Bank, and what was the role of PC Shires? Secondly, what was the true cost of Operation Teddington, and were officers diverted from the anti-terrorism taskforce, who at the time were dealing with the 7/7 bombers in West Yorkshire? Thirdly, why was Mr Elam considered to be a category A prisoner, and who was the police officer that demanded money?

“I know the Minister cannot respond directly to individual cases and that the Criminal Cases Review Commission will take a fresh look at this case, but I am seriously concerned enough to raise these issues and the fact that, while out on licence, Mr Elam still faces issues related to the recovery of the proceeds of crime. A hearing that was suspended in October is due in February. I have tried to contact West Yorkshire police on a number of occasions about those issues, and I will continue to do so. I was heartened today when I had a more co-operative response from West Yorkshire Police because they knew this debate was taking place, and I hope to take the matter further.

“These are serious allegations and this is a serious case—as I said, I do not usually promote and push issues where I do not feel that a cause needs to be looked at. This is a sensitive case, but it is important that as constituency MPs we raise such matters when they are put to us, and that we try to get the best result for the constituents we represent, particularly where justice and the work of the police are concerned. It must always be held utmost that the police operate in a proper manner and that our legal system is operating at its best.

“I want to put this case on record. I am sure it will not end here and that we will have to deal with other issues. However, I believe that the other bodies involved—they know who they are—should look at this case in greater detail, and I look forward to what the Minister has to say.”

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Gerry Sutcliffe, former MP for Bradford South

The Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims (Damian Green) then rose to respond on behalf of the Government:

“I congratulate the Hon. Member for Bradford South (Mr Sutcliffe) on securing this debate and thank him for recognising at various stages in his speech that I will inevitably be constrained in what I can say in response to the specific points he has raised. He served in a distinguished capacity in both the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office under the previous Government, so he will recognise that as a Minister in both Departments I am doubly constrained in what I can say. I will, however, respond to his points about miscarriages of justice, applications to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, and police matters.

“Consideration of alleged miscarriages of justice is a matter for the independent Criminal Cases Review Commission, and ultimately for the appeal courts. I am aware that Mr Elam has made an application to the commission. It is therefore not a matter for the Government and it would be inappropriate for me to comment on that case on their behalf. I understand that Mr Elam has made a complaint to West Yorkshire Police that is still ongoing and being investigated by the force’s Professional Standards Department. Again, that disqualifies me from commenting on it.

“The Hon. Gentleman mentioned the background to the case, and I understand that Mr Elam and a number of co-defendants were prosecuted as a result of a major operation by West Yorkshire Police. There were a number of criminal trials against Mr Elam and other defendants in 2006, 2008 and 2009. Mr Elam was convicted of offences including assault and conspiracy to pervert justice, conspiracy to defraud, and doing acts tending or intending to pervert the course of justice. Custodial sentences were imposed following conviction, which have been served, and I understand that Mr Elam has appealed unsuccessfully to the Court of Appeal, against sentence on one occasion, which was heard in 2007, and twice against conviction—both those appeals were heard in 2010.

“As I have said, Mr Elam has made an application to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which was established by the Criminal Appeal Act 1995. Its purpose is to review possible miscarriages of justice. Since 31st March 1997, the Commission has operated with the power to investigate alleged miscarriages of justice and refer convictions and sentences to the relevant appeal court for a new appeal. Its remit extends to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Commission replaced functions that were previously carried out by the Secretary of State. Parliament established the Commission specifically to be a body that is independent of the Government.

“A Commission review is rightly a long and thorough process. If Mr Elam’s application to the Commission concerns all the criminal proceedings to which he has been subject over a number years, the review will be complex and lengthy.

“It should be noted that the Commission has strong statutory powers to enable it to discharge its functions. It can direct and supervise investigations; approve the appointment of officers to carry investigations on its behalf; and gain access to documents and other relevant materials. I draw the Hon. Gentleman’s attention to the power in section 17 of the 1995 Act, under which the Commission can reasonably require any person serving in any public body to produce to the Commission any document or other material that can assist it in the exercise of any of its functions.

“Of course, “public body” includes the police, so the Commission’s powers pursuant to section 17 operate irrespective of any duty of confidentiality and allow the Commission access to information of the highest sensitivity. Accordingly, as I am sure the House can see, the Commission has the power to obtain and review the papers and materials held by West Yorkshire Police, provided the Commission believes it reasonable to do so, in connection with its review of Mr Elam’s conviction. I hope that that reassures the Hon. Gentleman that, when the time comes, the Commission can access and consider all material relevant to the review of Mr Elam’s application.

“The Commission has confirmed that an application from Mr Elam was received in January 2013. Mr Elam is now at liberty and, as I understand it, the case is not yet under active review. The Commission has informed me that it recently wrote to advise Mr Elam that the estimated date for the allocation of his case for review is January 2015. I appreciate that that is some 2 years after the original application was made and that, given the complexity of the case, it is likely to be some time before an outcome is reached once the review is under way.

“In addition, the commission has explained to me that it operates a system of priority for applicants who are in custody. For cases requiring a substantial review, the review is generally started 12 months earlier when applicants are in custody than when somebody is at liberty. Currently, the wait for those in custody is unduly long. The Commission is concentrating on allocating those cases to reduce the maximum waiting time.

“As I have said, although the Commission prioritises applications from people in custody, I am advised that it has a policy for affording priority to any individual case when appropriate. Perhaps Mr Elam wishes to pursue that, or perhaps the Hon. Gentleman can discuss with Mr Elam whether that is an appropriate course of action in his case. I should take the opportunity to repeat that the Government should not, and indeed cannot, in any way intervene or be seen to be intervening in a matter for the Commission and, if appropriate, the appeal courts.

“On the West Yorkshire Police investigation, I understand from them that Mr Elam’s solicitor contacted them at the end of last year to make a complaint about an officer involved in the 2005 investigation. West Yorkshire Police’s Professional Standards Department is currently in correspondence with Mr Elam’s solicitor about the matter and currently awaits a response. As the Hon. Gentleman has said, Detective Chief Superintendent Andy Brennan, the Head of the West Yorkshire Police Professional Standards Department, has spoken to him and informed him of the sequence of events surrounding the original complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

“The complaint was thoroughly reviewed, and the response was sent on 18 September advising that there was no evidence to support the allegation. A formal complaint was recorded by West Yorkshire Police’s Professional Standards department and, although Mr Elam and his representatives have been advised that the complaint will be subject to disapplication on two occasions, there has been no response to the letters.

“I understand that the Hon. Gentleman was advised that the process would not stop West Yorkshire Police’s Professional Standards Department from taking action on the information, especially if there is a suggestion of misconduct or criminality. I believe that Detective Chief Superintendent Brennan has also offered to meet the Hon. Gentleman to go through any outstanding allegations or suggestions of misconduct. As well as that offer—it is obviously a matter for him to decide whether to take that up—the Professional Standards Department strongly encourages Mr Elam, or any other person, to contact it should they have information that they believe may be relevant or of value. I think that that is all I can appropriately say at this stage.

“If after those stages Mr Elam is not satisfied with how his complaint to West Yorkshire Police was dealt with, or how he was notified of the outcome, he can appeal a decision to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which is the statutory guardian of the police complaints system. There are, therefore, further steps that he can take if he wishes to do so.

“The Hon. Gentleman raised three important specific points at the end of his speech. Let me address them as far as I can. The issue of the production order to Yorkshire Bank and the role of Mr Shires is specific to one or more of the criminal cases brought against Mr Elam. If that is a case he has asked the Criminal Cases Review Commission to consider, it will investigate the issues fully. It is therefore not appropriate for me to speculate on them. Information on the costs and diversion of police resources for the purposes of Operation Teddington is an operational matter for West Yorkshire Police, so I refer the Hon. Gentleman to it for the answer to that. On the question of where Mr Elam served his custodial sentences, the decision on which custodial facility a convicted prisoner is sent to is made by the National Offender Management Service. Its decision is informed by information and intelligence from various sources, and the Directorate of High Security has a responsibility to act on that information. It is not within its remit to investigate the details of the information provided by the sources it uses.

“It is clear from the important matters raised by the Hon. Gentleman that there are issues that need to be looked into further. As I have explained, the relevant and appropriate bodies are looking into those matters now. I therefore think that the sensible way forward is to allow the application to the Criminal Cases Review Commission to take its course. I hope that that satisfies the important points raised by the Hon. Gentleman.

Damian Green sat down at 5.18pm having given a polished and, patently, well briefed response, 22 minutes after the debate opened. The obvious, and legitimate question, is what has happened since? Is everything as straightforward as he makes out with regard to the various statutory bodies and the police in their treatment of miscarriage of justice victims and did the case pan out as he said it would. What follows here is a damning condemnation of all four: The Criminal Case Review Commission, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, West Yorkshire Police and Mr Green himself.

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Former Policing Minister, Damian Green pictured alongside family friend, Kate Maltby

Green was later sacked by Prime Minister, Theresa May, as First Minister after he admittted making misleading statements following the discovery of pornography found on his Commons computer in 2008. Those listening to the swish sound of whitewash being smoothly applied during his response to Gerry Sutcliffe wouldn’t have been too surprised at this turn of events. Mrs May was, of course, Green’s ‘boss’ at the Home Office at the time of the adjournment debate. She did not call for a review of any matters with which he had been involved as a result of his admission of dishonesty.

Other allegations raised against him by Kate Maltby, were found to be “plausible”, but no definitive conclusion could be reached about them as a result of “the competing and contradictory accounts” of the Minister and a female family friend who is nearly 30 years his junior, regarding inappropriate sexual behaviour.

Mrs May was heavily critical of the police in the way they carried out the raid on Green’s parliamentary office in 2008, when the pornography was discovered. One might fairly say that the former Home Secretary was not quite so robust when members of the public were victims of unlawful, high-handed and/or heavy-handed treatment by cops.

The first port of call for a member of the public having difficulties with the police should be his elected policing representative, the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), voted in by the public for that very purpose. Regrettably, the PCC for West Yorkshire is Mark Burns-Williamson, one of the worst in the country, in a field of plenty. His approach throughout the Elam fight for justice has been nothing short of disgraceful: He firstly lobbied his Labour colleague, Gerry Sutcliffe, to drop his involvement with the miscarriage of justice case. Burns-Williamson then, as he invariably does in other complaint cases, simply adopted the police postion without making independent enquiries: So, in the PCC’s eyes, Elam is a notorious Russian mafia gangster and unworthy of the assistance of the officer paid to perform that function. But when asked by Mr Sutcliffe to provide evidence, or substantiation, of that position  he could provide none. In fact, he refused to answer correspondence.

For a series of investigations into John Elam and others, that Gerry Sutcliffe believed had cost, in total, approaching £100 million of taxpayers money, and, at times, occupied up to 300 officers, the PCC ought really have been a great deal more rigorous in challenging the police narrative.

As far as West Yorkshire Police is concerned, their treatment of John Elam continues to be highly questionable. Despite almost ten years of intensive covert surveillance, of the most intrusive nature one can imagine, there was not one scrap of evidence that he fits their bizarre description as an international drug-running, money laundering, Russian mafia gangster produced at his trials. Despite many requests from Elam, his legal representatives, his MP’s, there has not been any evidence of the same genre produced in the intervening 11 years, either. Which makes the Burns-Williamson stance even more inexplicable.

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John Elam, in his office in Leeds, sizing up the next land development project.

He looks a long, long way from that, sloshing about on a brownfield construction site in Bradford in torrential rain on a cold, sleeting December morning rallying his workers from the front. Yet still the police pursue him; smearing him with banks and professional associates, making life as difficult as they possibly can to put his undoubted, almost unequalled, business acumen to use as a property developer. Very few would be able to start with less than nothing, from gypsy stock, and legitimately turn that into a £multi-million fortune.

There is also this troubling whiff of racism, and all the resentment infecting people of such unpleasant disposition, that appears to permeate into almost all of WYP’s actions. Is it the gypsy blood and the ability to wheel and deal, making ‘easy money’ by putting ‘back to back’ land packages together that gets their goat?

One senior WYP officer is alleged to have said at the time of the Sutcliffe adjournment debate: “How did that gypsy f****r get his case on the telly like that”.

Every complaint made on behalf of John Elam (he is in the later stages of his life, having made and lost several fortunes, getting to grips with reading and writing) is airily batted away by the police. Then kicked further into the long grass by the thoroughly disgraced IPCC (now the similarly disgraced IOPC). Aided and abetted by a police complaints system deliberately re-designed, in 2011, to hamper the public at every turn.

Two long-serving officers turned up to meet Elam at Gerry Sutcliffe’s office in Bradford in 2014, Simon Bottomley and Osman Khan. Both DCI’s at the time, who have gone on to be Heads of PSD at WYP. Bottomley is the present incumbent, having succeeded Khan last year. Both have a chequered history amongst those members of the public who have had the misfortune to complain against their local police force. Their disposition towards John Elam and Mr Sutcliffe was agressive and confrontational throughout. They had turned up in place of Andy Brennan, who had done a ‘moonlight flit’ and left WYP shortly before he was due to meet with the MP and Elam, as Damian Green had indicated he would. When Elam spoke to Brennan by phone he could offer no explanation for his ‘retirement’ from WYP. The meeting produced nothing of use to the fight for justice. The barriers were up and stayed up.

The stigma of the 7/7 bombings, and the effect of the withdrawal of WYP’s specialist counter-terror officers onto what appeared to be an almost wholly disproportionate vendetta, also rankles deeply with the force’s hierarchy. Further discrediting Elam is one of the only ways they can salve their conscience after 56 people died at the hands of three radicalised suicide bombers from Leeds, and one from Kirklees.

The CCRC did, eventually respond in April, 2016, three years and three months after the submission of the Elam appeal to them. Their detailed findings, and the flaws inherent within them, including what appears strongly as ‘verification bias’ and a lack of basic investigative rigour will be the subject of a separate, but linked, article on this troubling miscarriage of justice case.

The CCRC provided no satisfactory answers on the key issues concerning:

(i) Richard Shires and his dual and contemporaneous role with Yorkshire Bank and WYP.

(ii) The provenance of the Production Order which took nine years for WYP to eventually produce (in the end to Gerry Sutcliffe) and the Yorkshire Bank are adamant was never served on them at any time.

(iii) The true status of the alleged police informant, Andrew John Rudd. Whom it is said was acting as agent provocateur.

(iv) The classification of John Elam as a Category AA prisoner. Extraordinarily, and quite independently as an investigative journalist, I have obtained access to that information and about which there will be a seperate article naming the officer who provided what appears to be false and malicious information to HMP’s Director of High Security.

(v) The identity of the police officer who turned up at John Elam’s home in Scarcroft and demanded £150,000 in cash up front, and £30,000 per annum thereafter, ‘to make your [John Elam’s] problems go away’. No enquiries were made as to the whereabouts of the film from a covert camera situated in a bird box in a tree opposite (in the garden of a former Leeds United goalkeeper, Nigel Martyn).

(vi) The continued smearing of him as a very serious organised drug-running, money laundering, Russian mafia criminal, absent of even the smallest scrap of evidence.

What they did do, incredibly, was have at least one face-to-face briefing with West Yorkshire Police, the very organisation whose serious, and proven, wrongdoing was at the heart of the Elam CCRC appeal. It appears to have escaped the attention of the CCRC that WYP has the worst record of any police force in the country when it comes to serious, high profile miscarriages of justice. Dating back to the 1970’s and the deeply shocking Stefan Kiszko and Judith Ward cases (read more here). They are a police force that simply cannot be trusted to tell the truth or not tamper with evidence and/or witnesses. That is not fanciful speculation, it is an inalienable fact.

Most crucially, what they CCRC didn’t do was exercise their extraordinary powers to obtain disclosure independent of the police and prosecution filters or barriers. If they had, they would have discovered, as I have done, that covert surveillance on John Elam began accidentally in 1998 when an operation (my informant who worked on the case cannot recall the name) was mounted in East Leeds targetting other persons of interest to the police. Elam was a business associate of one of them. West Yorkshire Police say they have not been able to trace the operational name either, despite very specific information being provided to them that should make it a straighforward task

An operation that followed, codenamed Primary, did target John Elam but yielded nothing after three years of intensive, intrusive surveillance as they tried to link him to WYP’s ‘most wanted man’, Dennis Slade. A career armed robber whom the police fitted up in 2010 for a murder conspiracy he wasn’t part of. There was never any connection to find between the two men, socially or in business dealings, except for a fleeting introduction in a Leeds pub one evening. Slade’s conviction on that murder count was quashed by the Court of Appeal and the charged dropped one week into the re-trial in April, 2019 (read more here).

West Yorkshire Police misled Damian Green when they stated that surveillance on John Elam only began in 2005. It would have seriously harmed their case if the obsessive vendetta had been found to have begun five years earlier.

For my own part I can say this: I’ve known John Elam for seven years and either I am blind and stupid or he is a hard-working family man, unfailingly courteous, would walk a mile to do a man a good turn, would turn around rather than do him a bad one. His office is on one of the busiest corners in Leeds, he operates in a highly competitive business arena but appears to have the respect of his peers. Deals get done, and the wheels of the diggers and trucks turn. He is in the public eye insofar as he regularly takes his daughter and grandson out for meals and spends many weekends with them at their caravan at the East Coast seaside. That is not the lifestyle of a mafia gangster.

Like me, he abhorrs any form of narcotics and will not tolerate their use in his presence.

What I can’t say: That there is any evidence at all that he is the major criminal portrayed by the police. He is a one man band and has no association with any gang, apart from those carrying out groundworks on construction sites. He has the same computer in his office that he has had all the time that I’ve known him; he freely gives me access to that. He has just one ancient mobile Nokia phone that, apart from making and receiving calls, he struggles to use. There are no burner phones or SIM cards; no sophisticated means of encrypted communication used routinely by criminals, even the not-so-serious ones these days; no firearms; no weapons (and he wouldn’t even try to beat me in a fist fight). Nothing at all to support the notion of a criminal lifestyle and enforcer. His mode of transport is a 4 year old Ford Ranger open-backed pick-up truck. Not ideal if you are transporting illicit goods, cash or weapons.

What John Elam does have is a burning sense of injustice. It will never leave him. Why else, nine years after he was released from prison would he still be battling the police and the criminal justice system, spending whatever money he can raise on lawyers, trying to clear his name. The reader is invited to draw their own conclusion from that and look out for the follow-ups to this article which will appear in the coming weeks. This is a story that will run and run.

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Alex Sobel, MP for Leeds North West

APPEAL: If any retired or ex-West Yorkshire Police officer wants to come forward, anonymously or otherwise, with information that may assist in answering the questions still posed by this troubling case, they are asked to contact, in complete confidence, the office of John Elam’s MP, Alex Sobel. The Member for Leeds North West has been assisting Mr Elam, particularly with disclosure issues, for the past eighteen months. He has promised efforts will be made to secure a second adjourment debate in order to fill the gaps from the first one six years ago. They are, however, difficult to come by and Alex has not been at all lucky in the ballots that take place when pursuing other issues on behalf of constituents.

Alex secured a resounding victory at the recent General Election, securing a third term in office with a substantially increased majority. Very much against the trend for the Labour Party. John Elam, as a constituent campaigned strongly amongst his family, friends and associates for an elected representative he holds in high personal and professional regard.

 

Page last updated at 1650hrs on Tuesday 28th January, 2020.

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© Neil Wilby 2015-2020. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

The Smoking Gun

Earlier this week, an exclusive article revealed to an unsuspecting public the known misdemeanours of a ‘bad apple’ West Yorkshire Police detective (read in full here).

It is an important story because the reckless and, at times, dishonest actions of former Huddersfield based detective constable, Mark Lunn, may have placed the convictions of 45 men at risk.

Lengthy and forensic, the piece was almost entirely grounded in police emails and reports, together with notes from nine days of court reporting from the hearing of a high profile, high value civil claim in Bradford (read more here).

But, within the most explosive and damning piece of evidence, it has emerged that Lunn is only a bit part player: On 28th November, 2012, at the conclusion of an internal inquiry into his wrongdoing, Detective Inspector Nick Wallen, as he was then, wrote to a number of WYP colleagues in these terms:

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Chief Superintendent Nick Wallen (centre) receiving an award recently at the Police Superintendents’ Association

“Subject: DC 3602 Mark Lunn

“Ladies/Gents. Our investigation. is now concluded, there is no need for me to re-iterate what is in this report.

“My own view is that Kirklees SMT and PSD were right to remove DC Lunn from the investigation [Operation Thatcham] and to investigate respectively (sic). There is no doubt that had this issue been raised, in the first instance, at Crown Court, that the case would have been seriously compromised and may have lead (sic) to the prosecution being withdrawn.

“Mark will have undoubtedly learnt lessons from this, and his removal from CID duties to his current post [Huddersfield South Neighbourhood Police Team] may be the most suitable sanction for him.

“So, I thank everyone for their efforts regarding this matter, PSD will contact DCI Jeffrey regarding any other sanction for Mark that might be considered appropriate.

“Regards, Nick W”

The internal inquiry was one of a number of investigations carried out into Lunn’s misconduct. Another followed a complaint raised by Opus Law, a leading firm of Bradford solicitors, on 14thMay, 2012. Opus were not made aware of the internal investigation, or its outcome. It is understood, from a lawyer formerly employed by Opus, that their complaint was not concluded before Lunn left the force in August, 2013.

The most senior of the recipients of the Wallen email, Detective Chief Inspector Paul Jeffrey (as he was then), retired in July 2017 at the rank of superintendent and was central to the previous article about Lunn.

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Paul Jeffrey – who retired from West Yorkshire Police in 2017

Jeffrey hails from a family of police officers (read more here) and had first been made aware of the concerns over Lunn’s conduct, and the Opus Law letter, at a meeting on 8thJune, 2012. He instructed the local Professional Standards Department officers to carry out a scoping exercise. He was not aware that a covert police operation, codenamed Waffleedge, was already investigating Mark Lunn.

Nick Wallen is now a chief superintendent and Head of WYP’s Homicide and Major Enquiry Team: A remarkable rise for an officer whose career is littered with controversial investigations and faux pas. Not least the murder of Leeds schoolteacher, Ann Maguire, about which her widowed husband, Don, has repeatedly and justifiably complained and the ‘Bradford 4’ acid attack murder in which clear, and unchallenged, findings of evidence tampering forms part of the miscarriage of justice case of Andrew Feather Jnr, who was found on that evidence to be the secondary getaway driver. Mr Feather’s case presently rests with the Criminal Case Review Commission. He and his family has received widespread and positive publicity from a large number of regional and national newspaper articles, plus broadcast packages from the BBC and Sky.

The author of this piece has spent many hundreds of hours, collectively, on both cases. In the Maguire case there is a bizarre restriction on access to documents that were used in the inquest touching on Ann’s death, that Don has scrupulously observed, much to the frustration of both of us. Those include such as the investigation policy book (or log).

In the Feather case, unrestricted access was given to all the materials disclosed to the family, and the fruits of the remarkable post-conviction sleuthing of Andrew Feather Senior, which drew warm praise from no less than the bench at the Court of Appeal.

To be clear, there is no direct evidence that links Nick Wallen to any wrongdoing, but he was the senior investigating officer (SIO) in both cases and, as such should have signed off every action and decision in the policy book. If, indeed, actions that led to grotesque incompetence, or wrongdoing, were ever recorded there, about which there has to be considerable doubt, given the force’s very long and troubled history where policy logs and similar procedural or evidential requirements are concerned.

It can, however, safely be said that, in both cases, the timings relating to the murders, and the movements of those at or near the scene, now meticulously plotted and at variance to the police version, give rise to suspicion about the integrity of the rest of the investigation. Only a robust, thorough, independent enquiry, by another police force or policing body, can begin to allay those doubts.

The internal investigation into Mark Lunn, and the Wallen email at its conclusion, is concerning, to say the least. Taken at its face, it appears that a conscious decision was made not to disclose material, either to the Crown Prosecution Service or the criminal defence teams of the defendants, in a trial in which Lunn was centrally involved. As he was ‘officer in the case’ in only two investigations, Operation Thatcham and the one that preceded it, the field is very narrow.

The Criminal Procedures and Investigation Act, 1996 is explicit about what should be disclosed in criminal trials and failure to meet those statutory obligations could amount to an offence of perverting the course of justice. Or a conspiracy of the same, as this decision to deliberately conceal disclosure appears to involve at least five officers, including Paul Jeffrey.

West Yorkshire Police has said, in writing, that it is not investigating the matters exposed in the first Lunn article and, in those circumstances, a copy of the Wallen email was sent to Gerry Wareham, Chief Prosecutor for the Yorkshire and Humber Region, with a request that the matter be further examined by him and then referred to an appropriate policing body for a more complete investigation.

Mr Wareham, who features elsewhere on this website in a seriously troubling case (read more here), responded promptly and to the effect that he had no locus to investigate any offences that may be disclosed within the Wallen email. He has written to West Yorkshire Police, effectively passing the buck back to them, knowing they have no intention of progressing a matter that would cause the force huge reputational damage.

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CPS lawyer Gerry Wareham pictured outside Bradford Combined Court Centre

Mr Wareham expressed no alarm, or even mild concern over what had been disclosed to him which, put shortly, was that the police had duped the CPS in high profile trials, leading to the conviction of 45 men, that now appear, on their face, to be unsafe.

He also appears to be unaware of the Attorney General’s robust, zero-tolerance stance on this very issue (read more here).

As expected, following the publication of the first Lunn article other material has emerged: A former Kent, Essex and Metropolitan Police officer, Darren Jones, says that the account of their interaction, given by Lunn in police interview, is false. They did meet in London on one occasion, but ‘Operation Thatcham was never discussed’ says Jones.

It has also been revealed that, in 2014, Lunn renewed contact with Mr Jones.  He told him that he was still looking to start up his own fraud investigation company. This time the trading style was set to be Pennine Investigations. There is no such company registered at Companies House.

Materials relating to the now defunct Quo Vadis Investigation Services Ltd (QV) have also been disclosed. They show that Mark Lunn was listed as ‘Operations Director’ and made several outlandish claims in his biography on the company website. Not least that he had ‘over 20 years of experience as a CID officer with West Yorkshire Police’. In truth, he only served as a police officer for 19 years, and less than 5 of those were as a detective.

Companies House records show that Lunn became registered was a Director of QV on 31st July, 2013. He didn’t leave West Yorkshire Police until the following month. By October of that same year he had resigned, following a letter sent to QV, by Opus Law, pointing out why he had been removed from Operation Thatcham and the falsehoods on his biography.

A fraud investigator who made fraudulent claims about his own credentials was more than the other directors could countenance.

A consultant to QV, Peter Taylor joined and left on the same days as Mark Lunn, so there appears to have been a link between the two and Lunn was, very likely, leveraging the ‘success’ of Operation Thatcham to make these connections and secure positions that appeared well above his station. Taylor, rather immodestly, describes himself as ‘a highly regarded Counter Fraud professional with over 25 years experience’. He currently runs a company called Peter Taylor Consultants Ltd. Mr Taylor has been invited to prove further insight into his apparent association with the disgraced Mark Lunn.

In 2015, according to Lunn’s LinkedIn page, he joined the Home Office as an investigator. At the civil trial in Bradford the court heard that the belief of the claimant’s legal team was that he was working for the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) at their Wakefield office. On that same CV, Lunn lists ‘well versed in police misconduct procedures’ as one of his self-stated competencies. That appears to support that hypothesis.

There is an unexplained gap 16 month gap in his LinkedIn CV, from when Lunn left WYP until he joined the Home Office. There is no mention of the ill-starred association with QV Fraud Investigation Services or Pennine Investigations. He is still listed as working at the Home Office up to the present time, but also now runs a jobbing builder business and sells free range eggs in the village where he lives. A man of many parts.

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The press office of the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) was approached on 20th September, 2019 to confirm, or otherwise, whether Mark Lunn had worked for their predecessor organisation, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and, if so, how would public concerns over such an appointment be addressed. No response has been received from the ‘police watchdog’. Adverse inference can, of course, be drawn from that silence from an organisation that lists openness and transparency as two of its core values.

John James, a Leeds solicitor, has not responded to the email sent to him seeking an account of his interaction with Lunn. It was claimed, in police interview, by Lunn, that James was a ‘prospective co-director’ of a bogus company ‘Insurance Fraud Consultants Ltd’. It was also claimed in that interview that the two had met during police investigations upon which Lunn was engaged.

The Chairman of the perpetually noisy West Yorkshire Police Federation, Brian Booth, also failed to respond to the enquiries made of him and his association with Mark Lunn.

The Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) promised answers to these questions put to them concerning their involvement in Operation Thatcham: 1. A short statement from Insurance Fraud Bureau, covering the police decision to, effectively, conceal the serious misdemeanours of the lead investigator in Operation Thatcham from the CPS, and the defendants’ legal teams, would be helpful. 2. It would also assist, also, to know if WYP received any funding from IFB for Operation Thatcham.

After an inexplicable delay, they provided this statement which ducked both issues: ‘IFB’s role is to provide evidence of insurance fraud to UK police forces and to assist forces with their investigations into this criminal activity. In these circumstances, the relevant police force takes the lead with IFB providing information in an administrative role’.

A series of questions was put to the press office of 1st Century Motor Insurance in connection with the business plans for ‘Insurance Fraud Consultants Ltd’ that Lunn had compiled on police computers. After a series of meetings with two of their Directors at their Sussex HQ, he was asking the insurance company to make an investment of £183,000 in the bogus company. Police documents appear to show that at least some of that money was paid to Lunn. Clarification over the questions put to 1st Century was sought by their press officer and, following receipt, answers to at least some of the questions are promised in the near future.

In response to a freedom of information request that asked if West Yorkshire Police had undertaken a risk assessment, or a process whereby the they would have confirmed the authenticity and legal standing of the IFB, WYP said: ‘We hold no information. The Insurance Fraud Bureau has been contacted for basic information about the car insurance industry. They are not funding any aspect of the enquiry, it was a police-initiated operation. No risk assessment has been undertaken’. 

Of greater concern is that the police gave what appear to be false answers to other questions in that same request. Firstly, about the transfer of officers from other duties to run Operation Thatcham: They say there were none, Mark Lunn was certainly one as he was transferred from Huddersfield CID to the Proceeds of Crime Team at Batley Police Station to run Thatcham. Secondly, when asked whether any complaints had been received as a result of this investigation, they said there were none. In reality, there appears to be, from documentary evidence, at least three against Lunn, one of which it is known was from Opus Law.

The West Yorkshire Police press office has not repsonded to questions put to them about Mark Lunn and Operation Thatcham. Or provided a statement, as requested.

Nevertheless, and in spite of the obfuscation and false trail left by the police and the stonewalling by their perenially disgraced ‘watchdog’ and the ultra-defensive CPS, enquiries from this quarter are continuing, The next ports of call are the Police Superintendents’ Association, the Home Office, the Attorney General and the Justice Parliamentary Select Committee to test whether any amongst them has the resolve to tackle this disgraceful situation.

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Page last updated at 1130hrs on Saturday 28th September, 2019

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© Neil Wilby 2015-2019. Unauthorised use, or reproduction, of the material contained in this article, without permission from the author, is strictly prohibited. Extracts from, and links to, the article (or blog) may be used, provided that credit is given to Neil Wilby, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did ‘bad apple’ taint the Thatcham barrel?

In March 2008, an investigation began into two Huddersfield brothers. Concerns about their extravagant lifestyle, following an anonymous tip-off, appeared to be the trigger for the police probe.

At the subsequent trial in Bradford Crown Court in March, 2011, it emerged in evidence that Nadeem and Thazeem Khalid had exaggerated their earnings to obtain £968,000 from three financial institutions; Lombard, Birmingham Midshires and Kensington Finance.

They had used loans, fraudulently obtained, to buy a £75,000 Ferrari car, and two houses in Salendine Nook; a £650,000 detached house and another, valued at £160,000, that was subsequently used as a rental property.

After the trial, the detective constable based with the Kirklees CID response team, Mark Lunn, told a local newspaper:

“They were living a fast and loose lifestyle well beyond their means.

“Throughout our investigation they both showed an air of arrogance and were always of the opinion the case would never be proved. They were wrong.”

DC Lunn added: “They may believe they are untouchable and they may be enjoying a lavish lifestyle when the honest, hard working members of the public are struggling in times of austerity. But they can rest assured the police will catch up with them”.

At the time of their arrest, and conviction, the brothers were said to be running a company called Advanced Claims UK Ltd although their names have never appeared amonst the directors listed at Companies House. In both the evidence used for the fraud trial, and in the unused materials (for the legally minded, the MG6(c)), there were documents relating to the running of that company that aroused suspicion of bogus motor insurance claims.

Mark Lunn, who lives in the Golcar area of Huddersfield, joined West Yorkshire Police as a special constable in 1988. He served in that role for 6 years. He became a warranted officer in 1994 and remained, in relative obscurity, at the rank of police constable until around 2007 when he passed his basic exams and became a detective constable with the CID Response team in Huddersfield. He was a ‘rookie’ when he was given the task of investigating the Khalid brothers. It is said by the police that he was the ‘officer in the case’ for that investigation.

Following the conviction of the Khalid brothers, Lunn was ‘recommended’ to join the specialist Kirklees Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) Unit at their base in Batley Police Station. The sergeant leading the team, Mark Taylor (now an inspector in Bradford CID), says ‘it was a close knit unit’. Unusually for a detective constable, Lunn was allocated an office of his own. He was also tasked with leading an investigation, codenamed Operation Thatcham, to look further into the activities of not only the Khalid brothers but, more particularly, one of their associates, Sahir Mohammed.

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Batley Police Station

But Lunn was harbouring a dark secret of his own, and the fine words he gave to the Huddersfield Examiner would come back to haunt both him and West Yorkshire Police.

Revelling in his new found ‘celebrity’, he was, soon afterwards, planning a very large loan (or investment) of his own whose provenance was questionable. The leverage for that payment was the success of the Khalid investigation and his position as lead investigator on Operation Thatcham, a joint operation that included the private, not-for-profit Insurance Fraud Bureau (read more here) and the Ministry of Justice as partners.

At around the same time, the IFB had been involved in a controversial prosecution at Southwark Crown Court of doctors and solicitors. It concluded in December, 2011, after the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) dropped all charges, with the judge, HHJ David Higgins, describing the conduct of the case as “scandalous”.

That police investigation, codenamed Operation Triassic, had been funded and driven by the insurance industry and Ian Lewis, at the time the fraud partner at Manchester law firm Lewis Hymanson Small, representing BCR Legal Group, a London-based insurance intermediary, said: “Despite repeated requests to be provided with details of the complaints, the CPS and the police failed to do so, raising speculation that this was an investigation led by the insurance industry with a suspicion of an agenda to continue the civil cost wars in the criminal courts”.

IFB, for their part, maintain that they “….provided good evidence to the City of London Police to investigate the matter further and bring charges against the professionals concerned”. An article published by Legal Futures, covering the case, can be read here.

Questions concerning IFB’s role and whether they contributed funding to Operation Thatcham have been put to both them and West Yorkshire Police.

Police documents show that Mark Lunn added to his publicly available LinkedIn profile, sometime in 2011 he says, the fact that he was a director of private investigation business using a bogus company, ‘Insurance Fraud Consultants Ltd’, as its trading style. It was not registered at Companies House at that time. He was, it seems, looking to ride the tidal wave of money being thrown at tackling insurance fraud by the big players in that industry. ‘Crash for cash’ motor insurance frauds were one of the biggest concerns for underwriters and brokers.

He subsequently approached two senior managers of a large, well established insurance company based in Haywards Heath, Sussex. They were Glenn Marr (Fraud Director) and Clare Burrell (Claims Director) who both worked for 1st Central Insurance. They are part of the much larger, Guernsey based, First Central Insurance and Technology Group.

Lunn says he had been introduced to 1st Central by an, as yet, unidentified contact made through the ‘crash for cash’ investigations. He made three visits to the insurer’s head office, whilst not on West Yorkshire Police business, during the time he spent running Operation Thatcham.

A business plan for the bogus company was produced by Lunn, on police computers, although he told Detective Chief Inspector Paul Jeffrey, in interview, that he had worked on it ‘only in lunch breaks’. He also admitted sending out emails connected to ‘Insurance Fraud Consultants Ltd’ using his police email account.

The plan was for 1st Central to pay him £183,000, based on that spreadsheet. Apparently, whilst Lunn was leading one of the highest profile fraud investigations in West Yorkshire Police history. A series of questions has been put to the press office of First Central Group concerning the provenance of this arrangement, given they must have known that Mark Lunn was a serving police officer and it directly conflicted with his leader role on Operation Thatcham.

Lunn had already sourced an office and agreed a rental with a well-known local businessman, Ian Pogson, who passed away suddenly in July, 2014. The premises were situated at Brougham Road, Marsden a short drive from the police officer’s home. Police documents reveal that 1st Central rejected that location as they wanted Lunn’s business premises to be situated in Leeds, the recognised regional economic centre.

Mr Pogson is named, by the police, as someone who could give advice on the drawing up of Lunn’s business plan. The link to Mr Pogson was via a former Metropolitan Police detective, Darren Jones.

Lunn says he met Mr Jones through enquiries as part of the Thatcham investigation. The latter is the principal shareholder in Fraud Consultants UK Ltd (read more here). Mr Jones was asked to verify if Mark Lunn’s account of his intermediary role is true. He states that it isn’t: Mr Jones was not a serving officer at the time and he says that Lunn approached him for advice, out of the blue, as someone who had started his own fraud investigation business. He knew Ian Pogson, as he was a client for whom he was doing professional work. Beyond that, he says he has little or no recollection of Lunn. Operation Thatcham was never discussed between them.

 

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Andel Ltd was the business controlled by the late Ian Pogson

According to DCI Jeffrey, based on the account Lunn gave to him, a Leeds solicitor, John James, was also involved in the plans involving the bogus company, ‘Insurance Fraud Consultants Ltd’. He is a personal injury specialist presently working for a firm called Legal Studio (read more here). He was described by Lunn ‘as a prospective co-director’.

At the time of the alleged association with Lunn he was working for one of the largest law firms in Leeds, Ford and Warren. His CV on the LinkedIn website describes his role there as ‘Specialising in Insurance Fraud litigation, investigating and defending fraudulent motor claims on behalf of insurer clients’. Both Mr Walker, and Weightmans Solicitors, who took over the business of Ford and Warren, have been invited to give an account of any interaction with this ‘company’, a serving police officer and what appears to be a very large sum of money.

This private enterprise, apparently involving variously, and not necessarily limited to, a serving West Yorkshire Police officer, a former Metropolitan Police officer, a solicitor, and one of Huddersfield’s most successful businessmen, was, plainly, a very serious undertaking. The fact it was being organised from Batley Police Station, using police resources (office space, computers, phones at the very least), a police email address, software licenced to the police, and relying almost entirely on a number of professional connections made whilst on one of West Yorkshire Police’s largest ever fraud operations, is concerning.

On Lunn’s own account, he had been working on the satellite project for up to a year.

A series of questions has been put to West Yorkshire Police press office in order to shed more light on how this could have possibly happened and why Detective Constable Mark Lunn was not dismissed from the force. There is also the latent question of whether any of his conduct met the criminal threshold, particularly the deception over the bogus company.

The police’s position, regarding the sanctions Lunn faced over a lengthy list of serious demeanours, is that he was placed on an Unsatisfactory Performance Plan (UPP). A three-stage process that is more aligned to Human Resources than Professional Standards. Routinely used to tackle issues such as lateness or poor attendance record.

The UPP proposition, advanced by West Yorkshire Police, intended to divert attention from the investigation that it is known did take place into Mark Lunn, is, quite simply, preposterous. Those making it, and those maintaining it, should, themselves, face disciplinary or regulatory investigation.

There are also the residual and more serious issues of (i) what happened to the money that the police say was paid to Lunn and (ii) was it legitimately obtained? Public confidence in the police will suffer a serious detriment if answers are not provided to these questions.

On 14th May, 2012 a Bradford firm of criminal defence solicitors, Opus Law, wrote to the Professional Standards Department of West Yorkshire Police and drew the force’s attention to at least some of Lunn’s nefarious activities. Opus, a ‘Legal 500 Leading Firm’, represented one of the persons arrested, two months earlier, as part of Operation Thatcham: Dr Abdul Rashid, a Bradford GP and medico-legal expert.

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It appears as though PSD was either slow to act, as the third of Mark Lunn’s three visits to 1st Insurance took place eight days later, on 22nd May, 2012, or, by then, they had him under covert surveillance. He had taken that day off as unplanned leave, telling his supervisor, Detective Sergeant Taylor that he had ‘child care difficulties’.  He later told DCI Jeffrey he couldn’t remember saying that and, according to DCI Jeffrey’s notes, Lunn ‘made great play of how bad his memory was these days’.

On Monday 4th June, 2012, Mark Lunn started a planned two week period of leave. At a County Court hearing that concluded recently in Bradford Combined Court Centre, DI Mark Taylor (as he is now) gave evidence about how he came to know of Lunn’s burgeoning private enterprise. It can be paraphrased in this way: ‘On or about the first day of Lunn’s leave, DC Andrew Barrett came to his office and blew the whistle on Lunn, whom had been heard in telephone conversations obviously not to do with his police work’.

In police documents it emerges that, on DI Taylor’s account, DC Barrett was not the only team member to have heard, or seen, Lunn conducting such activities. Others were aware that he had compiled a business plan and had travelled ‘down south’ to make a ‘pitch’ for investment in his business. There was a huge concern as to how this would impact on the integrity of Operation Thatcham’.

DI Taylor’s further evidence in court was that he telephoned DI Andrew Leonard on that day, which he said was ‘at the end of May or beginning of June’ to share the knowledge of DC Barrett’s whistle blowing. There is no contemporaneous document available to support this account by DI Taylor. No emails, entry in pocket note books (PNB’s), or day books, and nothing on the investigation policy log relating to this. A ‘big red flag’ to borrow a phrase the police’s barrister, Olivia Checa-Dover, is fond of using, was not raised anywhere, it seems. Just an internal phone call, of which there is no audit trail.

A remarkable feature of those proceedings was the extent to which DI Taylor’s recollection of events varied from question to question, put to him in his examination-in-chief and, later, his cross-examination.

Another feature was that a significant number of other documents that would have supported DI Taylor’s oral evidence had either gone missing, been inexplicably destroyed or not searched for.

A third feature was how little DI Taylor appeared to know about the day to day running of the Thatcham investigation. For example, on a policy log with a very large number of entries he could not point to a single entry he had made. Almost every single one was made by DC Lunn. He told the court he was involved in thirteen other investigations or prosecutions at the time.

A fourth feature, very obviously of course, was the massive private enterprise, with a dangerous conflict of interest, being organised by the officer leading the investigation, right under DI Taylor’s nose. For up to a year, Lunn must have regarded his supervisor, working in an adjacent office, with scarcely concealed contempt.

Without the letter from Opus Law, it is possible that Lunn would have got away with his plans and scammed both West Yorkshire Police and, possibly, 1st Central Insurance, who were being asked to invest very heavily in a bogus company whilst the principal was a serving police officer.

On 7thJune, 2012, DI Taylor was copied into an email sent by D/Sgt Lockwood. Attached to the email was the letter from Opus Law.

When asked in cross-examination, at the County Court trial, if he had ever seen the Opus letter, before being shown the email in the trial bundle, he answered firmly in the negative.

He didn’t repeat the regular mantra of ‘I don’t recall’ or ‘I can’t remember’. He said: ‘No’

When shown the Lockwood email, he conceded that he must have opened it and seen the letter. The judge, Ben Nolan QC, sitting in this case as a Recorder, characterised this type of evidence as being tendered by a ‘truthful, reliable and extremely professional officer’. The judgment also gratuitously praises DI Taylor’s ‘very good recollection of his role as supervisor of DC Lunn’.

There is, very evidently, a tension between the daily reports of the hearings posted from the press seats and those judicial findings (read here). Not to mention the dangerous enterprise Lunn was perpetrating right under DI Taylor’s nose.

It now transpires, after further investigation, that the Opus letter featured in a meeting with DCI Jeffrey that took place on the day following receipt of the Lockwood email. DI Taylor had actually taken the letter to the meeting for the purpose of bringing it to the attention of ‘the boss’. The letter was not an item on the agenda, this was a routine operational review meeting of POCA team activity, and it seems, from DCI Jeffrey’s own account that this occasion was the first he knew of the Lunn complaint. It was only raised by DI Taylor when the review turned to Operation Thatcham, not as a matter of very considerable importance at the outset. Yet DI Taylor’s best evidence to the court was that he had never seen the Opus letter before being shown it in the witness box.

In DCI Jeffrey’s detailed notes of that meeting there is no mention of the Taylor phone call to DI Leonard. Or, indeed, any contact between Leonard and Jeffrey. It appears that, on all the available evidence, it was the first DCI Jeffrey, the Head of Crime in Kirklees, had heard of the complaints made against Lunn by Opus Law. 25 days after their letter had been sent to West Yorkshire Police.

The apparent delay by the POCA team, and the seeming lack of urgency in managing the complaint up the command chain, over what were, on any independent view, serious allegations, is troubling. Particularly, in the light of knowledge held, by both PSD and those senior officers, over a ‘written warning’ sanction Lunn had received, previously, at the end of a misconduct investigation into misuse of police computers. Given what was alleged, and the fact that the latest complaint came from a leading firm of solicitors well acquainted with policing matters, with documentary evidence supporting it, gives rise to suspicion that other dynamics were in play.

Frequently, police officers are dismissed from the service for computer and data misuse. It is, quite rightly, viewed very seriously and, as such, a curiosity as to why Lunn escaped with such a relatively minor sanction over his previous breach. Nevertheless, in the light of that disciplinary finding, the decision to allocate Detective Constable Lunn an office of his own in Batley Police Station, away from the gaze of the rest of his colleagues, appears highly questionable and smacks of poor supervision and decision making.

There was also one other live PSD complaint running at the time, from a member of the public, over the failure of Lunn to return seized property. The outcome of that complaint is not known. In his written response to PSD, Lunn had declared that he was ‘Team Thatcham‘ and that status, apparently, gave him immunity from any criticism, either internally or from members of the public.

In the same County Court proceedings, featuring the unlawful arrest of Dr Rashid, the court heard at the pre-trial review that there had been three previous complaints made against Lunn, by members of the public, alleging unlawful arrest. None were upheld by PSD. Under force policy at that time, West Yorkshire Police should, however, have placed a ‘red flag’ against Lunn’s name for having three complaints of the same classification made against him, irrespective of whether they were upheld or not.

Dr Rashid’s unlawful arrest claim was also dismissed, after a ten day court hearing, but is presently subject to an appeal to the High Court. He was never charged with any offence, but kept on police bail until June, 2013.

DC Mark Lunn, the officer in charge of the Thatcham investigation was, on the documentary evidence provided by the police to the court, clearly a detective who was prepared to persistently lie; misuse police assets; misrepresent himself using a police email account to further a private enterprise; repeatedly deceive fellow police officers working in the same team; engage in conduct that placed a huge fraud investigation at risk; gratuitously embellish his CV (which he still does to this day); repeatedly breach Police Conduct Regulations and place self-interest well above public service. Added to all that ‘he made great play of how bad his memory was’.

Unsurprisingly, that is not the view Mark Lunn projects about himself.

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Incredibly, this was the officer who planned and executed the arrest of Dr Rashid and wrote the operational order that included a massive, pre-dawn police raid at a residential property in an upmarket suburb of Bradford, the home of a well known professional man deeply embedded in the local community, and in which children as young as seven years old were asleep.

The findings of the judge, at the conclusion of the Rashid trial, seek to strongly downplay the impact of Lunn on the lawfulness of the doctor’s arrest and his role in it. Not only in the face of what was known in court about an officer whose very presence, let alone his position as its leader, appears to taint the entire investigation, or at the very least, up to the point he was removed from it, but the fact that almost all the documents, upon which Lunn might reasonably have noted the reasons he relied upon for the arrest, appear to have been ‘sanitised’. This formed part of the closing submissions of Dr Rashid’s barrister at the end of the trial. A point seemingly not addressed in the judgment.

The officer in charge of disclosure, on behalf of the police legal team, was DI Taylor. Warmly praised by the judge as ‘extremely professional’. From the press seats, at least, across three hearings, beginning in December, 2018 and ending in September, 2019 the drip-feed disclosure process had the appearance of an exercise whose principal aim was not to reveal anything that would undermine the principal plank of the police case.

The police’s various and changing explanations for the absence of key documents, including some of those provided by DI Taylor on oath, pose some difficulty when reconciling what is known as Authorised Professional Practice (formerly issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers, more latterly by the College of Policing), and the internal management of police information (MoPI) policies of a well-run police force. Not to mention their lawful obligations, Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) and duty of care.

One reasonable hypothesis, given what is now known about his general character and integrity, is that DC Lunn had exaggerated the reasons for the arrest in the contemporaneous documents pertaining to the arrest, for the purpose of enhancing his ‘pitch’ for investment in his private business by 1st Century – and giving the motor claims industry a ‘prized scalp’, as Dr Rashid was described in pre-trial court proceedings.

Significant support for this line of reasoning is that within hours of Dr Rashid’s arrest, Lunn had written to the General Medical Council to tell them that the doctor had been arrested over ‘serious fraud, money laundering and was part of an organised crime gang’. The words ‘on suspicion of’ or ‘alleged’ were notably absent. Lunn had also told the GMC that Dr Rashid was using drugs, but did not specify their nature, or application.

Lunn went on to say that patient records were found scattered in his home and the boot of his car. That was a baseless allegation, unsupported by evidence, photographic or otherwise. The ‘money laundering’ was an invention, as was the allegation that there was a misuse of drugs. None of these matters were ever put to Dr Rashid in interview.

Apart from this grotesque, and arguably libellous, smearing of Dr Rashid, it was a serious breach of West Yorkshire Police’s policy for disclosure to regulated professions. A task, for very obvious reasons, almost always undertaken by a specialist, qualified officer in the Force Disclosure Unit.

The General Medical Council’s Fitness to Practice Panel rejected West Yorkshire Police’s submissions and cleared Dr Rashid of any wrongdoing.

On 18th June, 2012, on the first day back on duty after his holiday leave, Lunn was summoned to Divisional HQ in Huddersfield for a meeting with DCI Jeffrey and DI Leonard, who was Mark Taylor’s line manager at that time.

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DCI Paul Jeffrey pictured after the conclusion of the Opertion Thatcham trials

Perversely, given what was alleged, and Lunn’s past history of police computer misuse, this was arranged as an informal meeting. The public might reasonably have expected that, given the suspicion of at least one criminal offence, Lunn would have been arrested and interviewed under caution.

A countervailing argument might be that admissions could be coaxed from Lunn by informal questioning, rather than when represented by his lawyer and a Police Federation representative at a formal interview under caution, where he might be advised to give a ‘no comment’ interview and provide a statement prepared by the Fed’s own lawyers at its conclusion.

Dr Rashid, for one, might well point out that he was never given such opportunity. Instead, sixteen police officers turned up at his home at 6.15am banging on the door.

It is clear from Paul Jeffrey’s detailed account of the meeting that an internal investigation had been launched against Lunn on 8th June, and a significant amount of information and material seized prior to the interview on the 18th. It is now apparent that the investigation was codenamed Operation Wademere.

At the outset of that meeting with two of his superiors, Lunn was dismissive of the complaint against him and maintained that the Opus Law letter was ‘a bit of a joke’. The bogus company was ‘only an idea’ he said. He was unaware that an investigation into the complaint by PSD, or, more likely, the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) that falls under the PSD umbrella, had started ten days ago, at DCI Jeffrey’s instigation.

Lunn’s approach to the interview was described by fellow police officers as ‘closed’ and ‘evasive’. He was prepared to lie to two senior officers in an attempt to bluff his way out of the Opus complaint. He only made admissions, they said, when he belatedly realised that his superiors already had the answers to the questions they were putting to him.

Eventually, and reluctantly, it was admitted by Lunn that he had misused police computers again; he was running the private investigation business from his home, rather than the office he had agreed to pay £50 per month to rent; he was using contacts gained specifically through the Operation Thatcham investigation to set up his business; he had breached force policy in not disclosing his business interests; most crucially, there was a clear conflict of interest with his duties as the Officer in the Case and the acknowledged lead investigator in Operation Thatcham.

To the extent he had, potentially, placed the entire investigation in jeopardy. Not least, it seems, by procuring the services of a chartered physiotherapist, Lee Robinson, as a director of the bogus company. Robinson was already a retained expert witness on Operation Thatcham.

That conflict, the police admit, would have led to the collapse of the Thatcham trials if the information was disclosed to the Crown Prosecution Service. The decision was made by a group of officers to deliberately conceal that crucial information from the CPS and the legal teams of those on trial.

Lunn denied any other police officers were involved in the plans.

He was removed from Operation Thatcham on the same day, but neither suspended nor placed on restricted duties (normally a non-public facing role and not adjacent to any evidence chains). Instead, Lunn was posted to the Huddersfield South neighbourhood team. Policing the area both where he lived and planned to set up his private investigation office, with the locals unaware that, in their midst, was a ‘bad apple’ police officer. One with a history of complaints of unlawful arrests (at the time, four), one who had twice misused police computers, and one who had repeatedly lied to, and deliberately deceived, other police officers. With a bad memory, to boot.

DCI Jeffrey also noted after the meeting with Lunn on 18th June, 2012 that there was a clear risk of ‘reputational damage’ to West Yorkshire Police if details of Lunn’s activities emerged into the public domain. The risk to the public of rural Huddersfield appeared not to have even been considered, let alone assessed, by DCI Jeffrey or the Professional Standards officers. That, despite the conclusion being drawn by Paul Jeffrey: ‘There are misconduct issues apparent in the information gathering exercise conducted today and I have no doubt that there is significantly more information [about Lunn] that will come out over time’.

Some of that information may have concerned a registration that was made at Companies House, in the name of ‘Insurance Fraud Consultants Ltd’., very shortly after Mark Lunn was removed from Operation Thatcham. It is unclear whether Lunn has any connection with any of the officers named as having control of the company. West Yorkshire Police have been asked to clarify.

Following the report of the Jeffrey/Leonard/Lunn meeting, in correspondence circulated to seven officers, up to the rank of superintendent, and who were, in one form or another, stakeholders in the investigation into Lunn’s activities, it was clear that there were serious concerns about what had been extracted from the police systems, by Lunn, to further his own commercial enterprise. Sgt Jonathan Dunkerley (as he was then) said: ‘It worrys (sic) me what he may have ‘taken’ with him from WYP systems that is clearly for personal gain. It’s obvious the monies and stakes are high’.

It also appears that Lunn was involved in another covert ACU investigation, codenamed Operation Waffleedge. ACU investigations are normally given operational codenames, Professional Standards investigations are given unique reference numbers (URN’s). For example, the Opus complaint had the URN ‘CO/797/11’.

The covert investigation was confirmed in an email between the Intelligence Unit in PSD and Stephen Bywater, following additional concerns raised with PSD on 8th June, 2012 by D/Sgt Lockwood, regarding Lunn. It was obvious that DS Lockwood was not in the ACU loop. The Waffleedge investigation was already under way:

‘We have received this request from Andy Lockwood about Mark Lunn. We are working on Mark LUNN for Op Waffleedge. What do you want to happen. Does someone contact DS Lockwood and let him know of our concerns? Or does the Intelligence Unit just do the work as requested?’

The police, in defending the unlawful arrest claim made by Dr Rashid, have given a variety of explanations for the Waffleedge investigation at pre-trial hearings, at the final hearing and in documents disclosed to the court. Including the proposition, submitted in court, that ‘Waffleedge was not a covert operation’. Taken together, they arouse the reasonable suspicion that the true findings of that investigation are being concealed, to the significant detriment of both Dr Rashid, the integrity of the Operation Thatcham investigation and, most crucially, public confidence in the police force.

There is also a freedom of information request in which West Yorkshire Police have refused to provide any information at all. They will not even confirm or deny Operation Waffleedge exists (read more here).

An appeal against the refusal by the police to disclose uncontroversial details about the investigation is, presently, being considered by the Information Commissioner. It is likely to be, ultimately, determined before an information rights tribunal. That is the only conceivable chance of prising at least part of the truth about Waffleedge from West Yorkshire Police.

Mark Lunn was, remarkably, not called to give evidence at the hearing into the unlawful arrest claimed by Dr Rashid. One of the reasons heard in court was an incredible submission by Miss Checa-Dover, at the pre-trial hearing before HHJ Neil Davey QC, that ‘the police couldn’t locate him’.

Amongst Lunn’s Facebook friends are Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) investigator, Mohammed Ejaz, and the present Chair of West Yorkshire Police Federation, Brian Booth. Which, apart from laying to waste the proposition that Lunn couldn’t be found, presents an interesting challenge to those organisations, and damages public confidence in both by exhibiting a close association with a ‘bad apple’ police officer. Questions have been put to them both, individually, and to their respective press offices.

Quite apart from which, it took less than 20 minutes, using open source material, for the author of this article to locate Mark Lunn. His home address, the names of the two businesses he now runs (jobbing builder and free range eggs vendor), his mobile telephone number, his Facebook account, and his LinkedIn account.

The trail of destruction he left behind as a police officer has lasted rather longer than 20 minutes – and it may not have ended yet. It appears from the various police correspondence, and reports, forming the rump of this article, that senior officers may have taken the decision to hide Lunn away, in what they believed was a noble cause and until the Thatcham investigation was completed, and not disclose his misdemeanours to those charged with offences arising from it. That may have influenced the defendant’s decision whether to plead guilty, or not, at court.

There has to be considerable doubt as to whether the trials would have proceeded if the fruits of the ACU and PSD investigations into Mark Lunn had been properly served on the CPS and the defendant’s legal team, as part of the police’s strict duty under the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act, 1996.

Dr Rashid’s barrister, Ian Pennock of Park Lane Plowden Chambers in Leeds, raised this issue in court during his final submissions. He said that if the Lunn disclosures were not made, and it is more likely than not they weren’t, this could amount to a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and required further investigation.

The judge observed that it didn’t matter as the defendants had pleaded guilty and the time for any appeal against conviction had lapsed. He did not address the core point of alleged police wrongdoing, or explore with the police legal team whether the criminal defence teams (or the CPS) of those convicted were, in fact, notified of Mark Lunn’s role in the investigation and his taint upon it. The CPS has been approached for comment.

A complaint is being made to the Independent Office for Police Conduct, by Dr Rashid’s legal team, with a request that another police force is appointed to investigate those allegations of perverting the course of justice.

That, regrettably, is founded more on hope than reality.

Recent history shows that the disgraced police watchdog and their local ‘masters’, West Yorkshire Police, will not want to lift the lid on this stinking Thatcham barrel. Both have steadfastly resisted calls to instigate a proportionate and independent investigation into the alleged serious failings of senior police officers over the industrial scale child sexual abuse, drug dealing, human trafficking in Huddersfield by Asian gangs – described recently by one outspoken media commentator as ‘Grooming Gang Central’.

A common link is that the Divisional Commander of Kirklees from 2009 to 2012 was Chief Superintendent John Robins, now, no less, the chief constable of that same West Yorkshire Police (read WYP biography here).

The child sex scandal and the Operation Thatcham debacle both happened on Robins’ Kirklees watch. As were the seeds of the outrageous lawlessless sown that has now seen  ‘Horrible’ Huddersfield grow into the worst place to live in the UK (read more here).

 

Page last updated at 1100hrs on Wednesday 9th October, 2019

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Photo credit: Huddersfield Examiner

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