Officer admits 'omissions' in murder review

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A POLICE officer yesterday admitted there were "inaccuracies and omissions" in an internal review he carried out into the police inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence which was later judged to be crucial in hampering subsequent inquiries.

Detective Chief Superintendent Roderick Barker concluded in his 1993 report that the inquiry was being conducted professionally and all lines of inquiry had been pursued.

But yesterday he told the public inquiry into the black 18-year-old's murder in Eltham, south London, in April 1993, that he had seen mistakes at the time but had not included them for fears that they could be seized upon by defence lawyers acting in a future prosecution. He denied suggestions that his review was a cover-up to protect officers.

His review was criticised by a Police Complaints Authority report by Kent Police last year which said it did not identify errors in the investigation and, as a result, later attempts to solve the crime were misinformed.

Mr Barker, who has now retired from the force, was appointed to conduct the internal review - routinely carried out when murders have not been solved after 10 weeks - four months after the murder.

At the outset he discussed the matter with Commander Hugh Blenkin, who was in charge of operational matters in Eltham in 1993. In his statement to the public inquiry he said that Mr Blenkin had told him that the review should be carried out sensitively and should not criticise any officers, particularly Detective Superintendent Brian Weeden, who was then the senior investigating officer.

Mr Barker said: "It was intended to be a constructive exercise to identify and assist the investigation in moving forward. The sole objective was to identify and bring to justice the people who murdered Stephen Lawrence."

The hearing was adjourned until Monday.