The chief prosecution witness for the murder of Stephen Lawrence was recorded without his knowledge by police while they briefed him and his legal team about developments in the inquiry, it has emerged.
The revelation heaped further pressure on Scotland Yard over its treatment of the murdered man’s family, friends and supporters after a former officer claimed undercover teams sought intelligence to discredit them in the months after the 1993 killing.
An unnamed senior officer is said to have signed off on the secret recordings of the debriefing sessions at the offices of Duwayne Brooks’ solicitors following the re-launch of the murder inquiry at the end of the 1990s after an initial bungled investigation.
His legal team knew nothing about the recordings, said solicitor Jane Deighton, who said that it would be “scandalous” if officers had been recording them. “Under the guise of briefing us, they were covertly recording us,” she told the BBC.
Mr Brooks was the victim of “racist stereotyping” by the first officers on the scene of the 1993 murder, who failed to treat him properly as a victim and the key witness to the stabbing of his friend, according to the Macpherson inquiry.
The traumatised Mr Brooks was treated with suspicion by officers, and his role in anti-BNP protests in Welling, south-east London, was identified by undercover police, which led to him being charged with disorder, according to whistleblower Peter Francis. The case against him was subsequently dropped.
The apparent bugging of Mr Brooks and the identity of the senior officer who signed it off raises further questions about who knew what at the Yard about the alleged operation to dig into the lives of the Lawrence family, Mr Brooks and the campaign’s supporters.
The unit running undercover teams revealed nothing about operations linked to Mr Lawrence despite a direct approach from officers investigating the murder.
Det Chief Inspector Clive Driscoll said letters were sent to all Metropolitan Police departments including Special Branch for information to be handed over at the start of his inquiry that resulted in the conviction of two of the 18-year-old’s killers last year.
Special Branch – which was merged into the counter-terrorism branch in 2006 – ran the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), which was said to have monitored the family.
“We sent a letter to every part of the organisation asking for disclosure and then we visited every part of the organisation,” said DCI Driscoll. “We have been through our files many times and we were not told.
“If they didn’t want to tell me they should have told Miss Morgan (of the Crown Prosecution Service). There was no reason why somebody shouldn’t have been told.”
The Metropolitan Police said an investigation would be launched into the claims.