Stephen Lawrence exclusive: Links between 'corrupt' officer on investigation and racist murder gang were suppressed to protect Met chief

Will yet another judge-led public inquiry into police corruption sort out the Met?

Investigations Reporter

Intelligence that linked a suspected corrupt police officer on the Stephen Lawrence murder investigation to the gangster father of one of the prime suspects was apparently suppressed to protect the then Metropolitan Police Commissioner.

A memo written in 2000 by a Met Police lawyer suggests the force suppressed information that John Davidson, a detective sergeant on the original botched investigation, was connected to the father of David Norris, one of the racist gang who stabbed Stephen Lawrence to death in 1993.

The file goes on to warn a police officer who was preparing to leak information on the Lawrence case to a journalist that “disclosures relevant to DS Davidson’s contact with the Norris family could have an adverse effect on the Commissioner’s position in the on-going High Court action by Mr and Mrs Lawrence”.

At the time, Doreen and Neville Lawrence were suing Scotland Yard for misfeasance in public office under the then Commissioner Lord Stevens following years of appalling police treatment following the death of their son.

The memo from David Hamilton of the Met’s directorate of legal services corroborates incendiary claims by police “supergrass” Neil Putnam. He has always maintained he told the Met in 1998 of the alleged corrupt relationship between Davidson and Clifford Norris right in the middle of a judicial inquiry into the appalling case.

A review of the Lawrence murder found that full details of Mr Putnam’s evidence was withheld from Sir William Macpherson during his landmark inquiry. The Home Secretary described this as “deeply troubling” and prompted  accusations of a “cover-up”.

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the current Metropolitan Police Commissioner, was thrown into the centre of the storm after Mark Ellison QC concluded in his review that Scotland Yard may not have told him the truth about Davidson’s links to another notorious unsolved case, the murder of Daniel Morgan, prompting Mrs May to order yet another judge-led public inquiry into corruption inside Britain’s biggest police force.

Read more: Police corruption revelations pile pressure on current Scotland Yard chief
New evidence links Lawrence murder and a private investigator
Senior counter-terrorism officer removed from post following Met Police spying revelations

The new memo on the links between Davidson and Clifford Norris was buried in the detail of the Ellison review, which also found that the Met inexplicably shredded four years’ worth of relevant information to the Lawrence case in 2003 when Lord Stevens was Commissioner.

In the summer of 2000, officers including Detective Chief Superintendent John Yates were preparing to leak sensitive information on police corruption to a former BBC journalist Graeme McLagan.

Yates, who rose to become an assistant commissioner before resigning in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal, told the Ellison review that he believed the decision to pass on the material was taken by Lord Stevens.

Before the information was sent to McLagan, Mr Hamilton in the Met’s legal department wrote to a junior officer dealing with the matter on 14 August 2000 warning of the sensitivities around Davidson.

“If confidence were to be breached, consideration would have to be given to the effect on any ongoing trials in this series should any of the contents of the complaints history be leaked.

“Disclosures relevant to DS Davidson’s contact with the Norris family could have an adverse effect on the Commissioner’s position in the on-going High Court action by Mr and Mrs Lawrence. Part of their claim is based on misfeasance in public office and alleges wrongdoing in relation to dealings between police and the Norris family.”

Crucially, the Ellison review was also told by Martin Polaine, a former CPS lawyer, that he recalled hearing of Mr Putnam’s allegation about Davidson and Clifford Norris in July 1998 – long before Lord Stevens wrote to the Macpherson Inquiry, releasing minimal information about the officer’s alleged corruption. DS Davidson denies all the allegations.

Meanwhile, the Ellison review also uncovered Met intelligence that Davidson was linked to a private investigation firm Mayfayre Associates, run by two former Scotland Yard police officers, Alec Leighton and Keith Hunter.

In 2012, Mr Hunter was arrested and is currently on bail over the alleged bribery of police officers in relation to an investigation into James Ibori, a Nigerian politician convicted of fraud and money-laundering. He denies any wrongdoing.

* John Yates has contacted The Independent to say that he wants to make it clear that he had no involvement in the decision to co-operate with Mr McLagan and did not pass any information to him. He objects to the word ‘leaked’ to describe the passing of, or giving access to information to Mr McLagan. The decision to cooperate with Mr McLagan in the writing of his book was an operational strategy agreed at the highest level.

He re-iterates what he told the Ellison Review: he believes that this was a decision authorised by the then Deputy Commissioner, Lord Stevens.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice finalists Mark Wright and Bianca Miller
tvBut who should win The Apprentice?
News
news
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Sport
SPORT
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick