Scotland Yard has been accused of a “cover up” after it emerged that its own review into the controversial death of a man believed to be an informant did not address key evidence which suggested officers bungled the investigation.
Kester David, 53, was found burned to death under railway arches in north London two years ago. Police concluded that he had committed suicide, but his family claim that he was murdered, possibly connected to him being a police informant, and that detectives failed to carry out a proper investigation because he was black.
In response, Inspector Brian Casson conducted an internal inquiry into the initial investigation. He found that officers had made a “catalogue of errors” that amounted to “a failing in duty”.
However, The Independent has established that the Met then ordered another review, carried out in March this year by DSI Keith Dobson, which did not address Casson’s findings.
Dobson’s report, obtained by The Independent, says: “I have not discovered anything which would have altered the ‘course and direction’ of the original investigation or alter the conclusions and findings which are documented by the investigators and experts involved...Based on all the information supplied to me I concur with that conclusion.”
Last night Mr David’s brother Roger Griffith described the Dobson report as an attempted “whitewash” by the Met and part of a sustained attempt to cover up the failings of the original detectives, whom he believes were motivated by racism.
He said: “The Dobson report was a cover up which ignored everything Casson found and concluded that the original investigation was a good job. It was a complete whitewash.”
He added: “How is it right that two police officers who failed us so tragically are still on the streets? They seemed hell bent on not investigating and putting forward that it was suicide...The two officers should be suspended now, so that no other mother has to go through what our mum has been put through.”
An inquest into Mr David’s death recorded an open verdict in January 2011 amid unanswered questions and a missing DNA report. After the critical Casson report was leaked to the press, Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe ordered a new inquiry, which is still ongoing.
Inspector Casson, who was investigating the family’s complaints, found two key witnesses who had called 999 with evidence that pointed to foul play, but were never interviewed by the detectives.
One man, who was awake feeding his baby daughter, reported hearing two screams of ‘no’ by a man who sounded panicked, frightened and in pain at 4.20am. He was first interviewed by the Inspector Casson - almost 18 months after the incident.
The second caller was a Morrisson’s supermarket night shift worker who had seen a white Mercedes van in the car park, which borders the Travis Perkin yard where Mr David was found, and two men walking towards the yard at 3.45am. He had never before seen a vehicle in the car park at that time of night. The CCTV footage was never recovered.
Mr David’s burnt body was found without shoes but there was a pair of white Reebok trainers found close-by, which his family said did not belong to him. The detectives concluded that they were his because, they told the coroner, DNA taken from the shoes “would have” belonged to a close relative. This was not true; there is no mention of a close relative in the excerpt of the DNA report quoted by Casson, the same report apparently lost by the detectives so never seen by the coroner or family.
The forensic scientist actually found two DNA profiles, one was dominant so most likely belonged to regular wearer of the shoes, but this was not run against the police DNA database. Casson’s inquiry found that it was perfect match to a white man from the travelling community.
At the inquest, Detective Kirk told the coroner that the CCTV footage showing Mr David buying a canister of petrol a few hour before he is believed to have died, pointed to a planned suicide. The inquest was not shown footage from a few minutes later which showed an RAC van attend as Mr David’s car had broken down because it was out of fuel. This footage was “not discovered” by the original investigation.
Casson also found that crucial mobile phone analysis was not done.
The Casson report recommended “a severity assessment” be conducted in light of his findings. Even the Dobson report recommends they are “considered for local management action” because of the insensitivities shown to the family and the inaccurate information they passed on. But both still remain on full duty.
They family do not understand why the IPCC, which is currently investigating five alleged cases of racism, decided not to get involved pending the outcome of the criminal investigation. The IPCC said it was reviewing this decision following the family’s request not to delay the investigation.
The Met did not comment on Mr Griffith’s view that the Dobson report was a whitewash and an attempt to cover up the actions of racist officers but said: “There is a fresh on-going investigation into the death of Kester David by the Specialist Crime and Operations Directorate (SC&O1)... detectives retain an open mind about the circumstances surrounding the incident.
“An investigation into an unexplained death of this nature is reviewed as a matter of course after 28 days, usually internally, but in this case by an external police force ensure Mr David’s family is as reassured as they can be about the effectiveness of our investigative process.”
She added: “The investigation into this complaint has not been completed... the Directorate of Professional Standards awaits the outcome of the [criminal] investigation. No action has been taken against any officer at this stage. No disciplinary action can be considered until SC&O1 have finalised their investigation.”
Timeline: Kester David Case
7 July 2010 Kester David dies around 4am. His burnt body is found under railway arches of Palmers Green station, north London, at 11am.
After 7 July Two detectives conclude he took his own life after losing £20,000 in a business deal. His family believe he was killed because he was a police informant.
January 2011 An inquest into Mr David’s death returns an open verdict.
Around December 2011 Inspector Brian Casson reports there was a “catalogue of errors” amounting to a “failing in duty” in the investigation.
March 2012 DSI Keith Dobson’s report finds no problems with the original investigation.
April 2012 Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe orders inquiry. The Met refers family’s complaint to the IPCC; officers remain on duty.
June 2012 Dobson report is disclosed to Mr David’s family