30 Sep 2013

Lynette White: no further action for police

As the police watchdog gives the all-clear to the South Wales force’s investigation of corruption claims over the Lynette White murder case, Simon Israel looks back at the history.

Lynette White

A glowing report about South Wales Police over its handling of the Lynette White case is out on Monday.

By coincidence it follows my story last Friday on the refusal by the home secretary to hold a public inquiry into why the case against 13 former officers ultmately collapsed at trial.

Miss White, 20, died in 1988 in a flat in the Cardiff docklands, where she worked as a prostitute, after she was stabbed more than 50 times.

A high profile investigation into the violent murder ended in 1990 when three men were wrongly jailed. However after they were released and the real killer was traced and jailed, South Wales police was asked to investigate how its officers got it all so wrong.

Today’s Independent Police Complaints Commission report takes us through the 25 year history since the 1988 murder – the wrongful convictions and prosecutions, the allegations of tampering of evidence by the original murder squad, the hounding, bullying and threats the original suspects and witnesses, 2003 confession and conviction of the real killer, 3 witnesses later convicted of perjury and then details of an eight-year inquiry into how and why innocent people went to prison for the murder.

By the end, according to the report, the inquiry had generated in excess of 800,000 pages of material,over 5,400 exhibits…and contained enough audio and video footage that if played 24 hours a day, end to end, would last for over two weeks.


So very weighty, very complex and very detailed.

But the bottom line is that not a single officer was convicted, disciplined or reprimanded for this appalling miscarriage of justice.

Today also saw the final chapter from the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which said it was satisfied with the investigation by South Wales Police.

Its commissioner Tom Davies wrote “the difficulty of this ‘groundbreaking’ investigation cannot be underestimated. The sheer scale of it….was immense.”

He then goes on to say it has restored the reputation of South Wales police.

Has it? Has it put right a wrong?

This commendation and today’s police report does not address what the home secretary described as “unanswered questions” – questions as to why the trial in the end collapsed and why justice for those wrongly convicted has not been served.

It’s all very well for the force and the IPCC to close the book. They’re heavily assisted by procedure.

But for those wrongly prosecuted and convicted, even this long ago, there is no closure.