Police in clear over 'body in barrel' murder case

A confidential report into two police investigations found no evidence there had been 'miscarriages of justice' after corruption concerns were raised by a whistleblower.

Police in clear over 'body in barrel' murder case

The review by Detective Superintendent John Armstrong looked into Staffordshire Police's handling of the Pendeford 'body in a barrel' murder probe and a £2 million bank raid following allegations by former Detective Inspector Joe Anderson, who helped expose wrongdoing in the botched Kevin Nunes gangland killing case.

Mr Anderson was concerned that there may be similarities between the way the cases and the Nunes affair were handled.

He feared 'improper reward payments' had been made to witnesses in the two cases, that a key document had been altered to conceal information, and that crucial details had not been disclosed to defence barristers or judges.

He today branded the report's findings – published nearly four years after it was completed – as 'meaningless'.

While Mr Armstrong says there were 'no grounds' to consider there had been miscarriages of justices in the cases – he admits he was unable to interview any of the serving officers and confirmed that witnesses had been paid by the force.

He said police did not try to hide the fact witnesses had received payment but the fact they had been 'proved a difficulty' for prosecutors –including evidence being ruled inadmissible or withdrawn.

On the matter of an alleged altered document, known as a 'policy book', he said he found 'no evidence' any such record existed.

The first case, known as Operation Pendeford, was the killing of drugs mule Floyd Dodson whose body was found inside a barrel on the Wolverhampton and Staffordshire border at Pendeford in 1999. One man was convicted of his manslaughter in 2003 and another was acquitted.

The Skip Hire truck used in the bank depot raid

The other case, Operation Sanctio, happened in 2006 when a Royal Bank of Scotland cash handling centre was ram-raided in Tamworth. In 2007 four men pleaded guilty to conspiracy to burgle and three others were acquitted.

Mr Armstrong's 2013 report, published in redacted form this week by Staffordshire Police, concluded: "I am satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to conclude that there are no grounds to consider either Operation Pendeford or Sanctio to have led to any miscarriage of justice; there is no evidence of any criminal conduct on the part of any officer; nor is there any prospect of a case to answer for any breach of standard of professional behaviour on the part of any officer involved in either investigation."

Mr Anderson said: "I find the revelation from the author that he did not speak to all those involved and that the crucial 'policy books' could not be found, alarming.

"This report is meaningless, even the author states that his work 'should not be considered a thorough investigation'. It is time that the Chief Constable initiates a proper thorough investigation."

Staffordshire Deputy Chief Constable Nick Baker said: "Armstrong's findings were very clear. Despite the complaints, there was no evidence that there were any 'improper' payments to witnesses, tampered documentation or any criminal or professional shortcomings."

Last year the Express & Star revealed Mr Anderson's concerns over the two cases.

It followed a series of articles on the Nunes case, which revealed a detective went drinking with the police's star witness, that an officer had been having an affair with a female colleague at the witness's safe house, and that the witness and family members were sent to South Africa in the build up to the original murder trial.

Five men jailed for the 2002 killing in Pattingham were later freed after their convictions were quashed. Fourteen Staffordshire police officers were investigated but only one junior officer was ever disciplined.

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