Retirement means police escape action in Menson murder case

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The Independent Online

Senior police officers have escaped punishment over failings in a bungled racist murder investigation because they have retired, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said yesterday.

Senior police officers have escaped punishment over failings in a bungled racist murder investigation because they have retired, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said yesterday.

Only two junior officers from an 18-strong Metropolitan Police team will face disciplinary action over a catalogue of errors in the inquiry into the death of the black musician Michael Menson.

Mr Menson, 30, was doused with white spirit then set on fire in Edmonton, north London, by a racist gang in 1997, dying from his injuries two weeks later.

Although he whispered the name of one of his attackers to the first officer on the scene, for 18 months Scotland Yard treated the death as a suicide and witness statements were altered to fit in with the theory.

The IPCC said a detective constable and a detective sergeant would be admonished over their handling of the case.

But a spokesman added: "The IPCC would have pressed for a disciplinary hearing against a further four officers had they still been in the police service.

"The IPCC would also have pressed that one officer, now retired, should have received an admonishment."

A further two officers, from senior ranks not covered under old police complaints rules, had also been found at fault but had since retired.

In a statement, Mr Menson's brother, Kwesi, said officers who are being investigated should not be allowed to retire.

He said: "This appears to be a way for them to evade culpability, leaving their juniors as scapegoats. "It is a disgrace that no one has been disciplined for the failings in this case and we call for this loophole to be closed urgently."

He added: "We have waited over six years for an answer that might make sense of why officers were so bent on denying Mike had been murdered.

"Instead of acting on the evidence, they concocted a suicide theory, tampered with evidence and had us, the family, investigated by Special Branch."

An investigation by Cambridgeshire Police for the Police Complaints Authority, the IPCC's predecessor, concluded that police work following the murder was "unprofessional, unco-ordinated, in part negligent, and at best inept".

The report said officers had failed to preserve the crime scene or take a statement from Mr Menson and found that they had tampered with witness statements.

Pressure from Mr Menson's family led to the case being re-opened and in 1999 three men were convicted of killing the musician.

David Petch of the IPCC said: "The Cambridgeshire investigation concluded there was adequate evidence to sustain an accusation that the officers had been swayed in their judgments by racial prejudice. The commission considered this conclusion carefully.

"We eventually decided that there was insufficient evidence to prove, beyond reasonable doubt, that the officers' failure to investigate the cause of Michael's death was affected by racial prejudice."

He added: "I appreciate that important changes have been made to the way that such deaths are now investigated.

"Officers are reminded more forcefully to keep an open mind.

"I hope that the police service will continue to learn the lessons from the way that this inquiry was first handled."

In May last year, the Crown Prosecution Service decided that the failings of the Metropolitan Police were not "wilful or grave" enough to merit criminal proceedings.

The Mensons' family solicitor, Tony Murphy, said: "It is an indictment of the police complaints system that senior officers can still evade accountability by retiring on a full pension."