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
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?