Two former Scotland Yard Commissioners have been asked to explain their knowledge surrounding the destruction of a “lorry-load” of top-secret files that detailed appalling police corruption.
Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, has written to Lord Stevens and Lord Blair to ask whether they knew of the “mass-shredding” of Operation Othona, an unprecedented four-year investigation into criminality inside the Metropolitan Police.
The sensitive probe, undertaken during the 90s, found police officers trafficking illegal drugs, fabricating evidence, sharing reward payouts with informants, selling confidential police intelligence to criminals.
Earlier this month, an explosive review of how police corruption tainted the investigation of the Stephen Lawrence murder found the cache that had been painstakingly assembled over four years had been mysteriously shredded during a two-day operation in 2003.
At the time, Scotland Yard was led by then-Commissioner Lord Stevens and his deputy was Lord Blair, who was in charge of the Met’s anti-corruption command.
The Home Affairs Select Committee is due to take evidence on police corruption from current Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe on Tuesday.
However, Mr Vaz has also written to the former police chiefs to see what light they can shed on the inexplicable destruction.
In a letter to Lord Stevens, the former Labour minister bluntly asks: “Who authorised the shredding of evidence in 2003?”
He later asks whether it was “routine” to destroy “such a vast amount of evidence” and questions what rank of officer would have had to sign-off on such a controversial task.
Former assistant commissioner Roy Clark, who lead anti-corruption at the time of Othona, told the Ellison Review into the Lawrence murder: “I’d be shocked if it doesn’t exist. It was gold-dust stuff.”
The officer, who retired in 2001, added that it was important the information was used to keep up the pressure on corrupt officers. He said: “How you can go to those lengths and spend all that money and it is not there, I am just amazed.”