Police 'lost' Telford hanging evidence

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The Independent Online

West Mercia police lost vital scientific evidence during an initial "half-hearted" investigation into the death of the second black man from the same family to be found hanged in Telford, Shropshire, an inquest was told yesterday.

Brian Stevens, the first forensic investigator on the scene, was accused of failing to do the job properly because he had been told he was dealing with a suicide, when he gave evidence before the inquest into the death of Jason McGowan.

Mr McGowan, 20, was found suspended by his belt from railings near the pub where he had been celebrating Millennium Eve with his wife. His death came six months after his uncle Errol McGowan, 34, was discovered hanged.

Mr Stevens insisted that he had conducted a "100 per cent proper investigation".

However, Emily Thornberry, representing the McGowan family, said the main scientific work was done after the scene had been closed because senior officers had already come to the conclusion that the hanging was a suicide.

"You took no tapings from Mr McGowan's body and no scrapings from his fingernails. You didn't bag up the hands or the head. You didn't fingerprint his glasses or his phone. Why not?" asked the lawyer.

The investigator replied: "In the fullness of time it would have been done, but at that stage the items would have been tested in the lab rather than on site."

Miss Thornberry accused the investigator of wandering around the scene without taking care to use stepping plates, adding: "You picked up some paperwork which was headed 'attempted suicide' before you began your investigation proper and that affected the way you carried out your duties."

"I was not half-hearted in my efforts," Mr Stevens replied, explaining that he had been "kitted up" in a white suit complete with head-gear, gloves and over-shoes to avoid contaminating the scene.

The inquest continues.