It took the jury more than nine hours to find Detective Sergeant Linda Evans, 42, and Constable Colin Whitby, 48, not guilty of the manslaughter of Mrs Gardner, an illegal immigrant who died after a struggle as they tried to arrest her for deportation. The verdict was condemned by her family and as the two officers were driven off with PC John Burrell, 43, who had already been cleared of manslaughter, several people banged on the car windows and shouted "murderers".
The outcome of the four-week trial was welcomed by the Police Federation, which accused the authorities of staging a political trial and claimed that Sir Paul Condon, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, had failed to support his officers.
Sir Paul defended his decision to suspend the officers two years ago and said justice had run its course. He said the three officers would be returning to non-operational duties until the conclusion of a investigation by the Police Complaints Authority.
Mrs Gardner's family plan to sue the Home Office, the Immigration Service and the police for damages on behalf of her son Graeme, aged seven, who was present when the officers tried to arrest his mother.
The court had heard that PC Whitby and PC Burrell, of the Alien Deportation Group, and Det Sgt Evans, from the Extradition Squad, accompanied by two uniformed constables and an immigration officer, had gone to arrest Mrs Gardner at her home in Hornsey, north London, in July 1993.
Mrs Gardner, 40, who came to Britain in 1987 on a six-months visitor's visa, barred the door and they forced their way in. A violent struggle ensued during which she was handcuffed to a waistbelt, strapped around her thighs and ankles and gagged with more than 13 feet of adhesive tape. Five minutes later the police discovered that she had no pulse.
She was taken to hospital where she died four days later. The prosecution claimed the officers had committed "an unlawful and dangerous act" and said that she died from asphyxiation caused by the gag. The defence claimed death was due to a head injury sustained accidentally.
After yesterday's verdict Myrna Simpson, Mrs Gardner's mother, said: "I am disgusted, I am really saddened. I could not believe my ears but it was biased from the start." Her solicitor, Jane Coker, said: "Justice has not been done in this case, there has been no inquiry, nobody knows what happened." 'Brutal' treatment, page 4Reuse content