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Kevin Nunes murder case: Staffordshire police chief in the clear after probe

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The temporary Chief Constable of Staffordshire Police should face no disciplinary action over her role in the botched Kevin Nunes murder investigation, the county's police commissioner has today said.

Jane Sawyers was formerly the superintendent in charge of professional standards at Staffordshire Police at the time of the Nunes investigation which eventually saw five men convicted of the 20-year-old's murder released from prison in 2008 after a series of police failings were revealed.

Today Staffordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Ellis said Mrs Sawyers should not face misconduct or gross misconduct charges.

There has been a four year investigation into the conduct of 14 police officers – including three current chief constables. None of them will face criminal prosecution and as yet no one has faced any disciplinary actions.

2002 – Kevin Nunes, aged 20, is found dead with multiple gunshot wounds on a grass verge in Pattingham, South Staffordshire, on 19 September. A murder inquiry launched by Staffordshire Police.

2008 – Five men are jailed for Mr Nunes' murder after a trial at Leicester Crown Court.

2011 – The IPCC launches an independent investigation into 14 former and serving Staffordshire Police officers. Led by Chief Constable of Derbyshire Mick Creedon, it focuses on how a protected witness was dealt with and disclosure issues prior to the trial.

2012 – The Court of Appeal quashes the convictions of all five men.

2014 – The Crown Prosecution Service decides five of the officers will face no criminal charges in January and that the remaining nine will not face charges in November.

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2014 – The IPCC completes its report in November and sends it to the relevant forces.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) will make a final decision on all serving officers.

Temporary Chief Constable Jane Sawyers said today: "I welcome the determination the Police and Crime Commissioner has reached and remain grateful for the support family, friends and colleagues have given me during the investigation. I would like to reiterate that throughout the investigation my focus has been on continuing to deliver the very best I can and helping to keep the people of Staffordshire safe and reassured. This remains my priority."

Mr Ellis said: "I have now written to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) to say that I consider that Temporary Chief Constable, Mrs Jane Sawyers, has no case to answer on misconduct or gross misconduct in relation to the 'Operation Kalmia' inquiry into matters relating to the investigation and trial of five men for the murder of Kevin Nunes in 2002.

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"It is clear that over the last decade something went wrong in relation to the investigation of the murder and the wider criminal justice proceedings, and it is right and proper that further investigations were established to understand what actually happened.

"The public have every right to expect that this whole issue is examined in a fully open and transparent way. Too often, people feel that accountability is lacking in public services where scandals or failures happen because things are perceived to be brushed under the carpet, ignored or not dealt with in a way that inspires public confidence.

"It is important that the Police in Staffordshire are held to account for the quality of their service and to ensure high standards of behaviour. This has informed the approach of me and my advisers to our work, to my determination on the IPCC report, and why I have made my decision public today.

"Driving this level of openness, transparency and public scrutiny, however, is made harder by the way this kind of investigation is carried out and the levels of secrecy imposed by the system on everyone involved."

Amateur footballer Kevin Nunes was found dead in a country lane in Pattingham in 2002.

In 2008 Levi Walker, Adam Joof, Owen Crooks, Michael Osbourne and Antonio Christie were jailed for the murder.

Owen Crooks, Levi Walker and Michael Osbourne (bottom row from left) Antonio Christie and Adam Joof
Police at the scene where the body was found, on Clive Road, Pattingham

But in 2012 all men were released after the convictions were quashed after they were deemed 'unsafe'.

Mr Ellis added: "My conclusion is that, whilst there were undoubtedly different actions and decisions that should have been taken at the time, the IPCC report does not produce evidence that Mrs Sawyers has a case to answer in respect of misconduct or gross misconduct.

"I have been clear, however, in my letter to the IPCC that Jane Sawyers could have been more intrusive and sceptical about the actions of others at the time. But in the climate and culture of the times 10 years ago, there is no evidence that there was such a breach of professional behaviour to justify a conclusion of gross misconduct or misconduct."

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