Yardie was free to kill because he was an informer

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The Independent Online

A Jamaican gangster was allowed to stay in Britain illegally for more than a year, during which time he murdered a London woman, because of his value as a police informer, a Court of Appeal judge said yesterday.

Delroy Denton was jailed for life at Inner London Crown Court in July 1996 for the multiple stabbing of Marcia Zena Lawes at her flat in Camberwell, south-east London, in April 1995. The case of Denton, now aged 41, became a scandal for Scotland Yard and resulted in an overhaul in the way the police handle informers.

It was disclosed during the murder trial that Denton, who had a long record of violence as a "Yardie" criminal in Jamaica, was a paid informer with SO11, Scotland Yard's criminal intelligence division. His application for asylum in the UK was turned down in December 1994 but the order was not served on him until the end of December 1995, by which time he was under arrest for murder.

"The inference that it was held back deliberately in order to prolong his usefulness as an informer is difficult to resist," Lord Justice Mantell said.

The judge's comment came in a judgment dismissing Denton's appeal against his murder conviction. The remarks cast a further shadow over the case, which has been severely criticised by an independent review.

The Denton scandal came 10 months after Scotland Yard had to make an apology for endangering public safety after another informer was jailed. Eaton Green was sentenced to six years after being caught robbing 150 people at gunpoint at a party in Nottingham in 1993 with other assailants.

During Denton's trial the prosecution alleged he had broken into Ms Lawes' flat in Brixton after developing a fixation with the mother of two young children, and then raped her and stabbed her 18 times.

At the Court of Appeal, Denton claimed his conviction was "unsafe" because of the failure of Crown lawyers to disclose his informer status to his own defence team at trial. He claimed to have been told by his police handlers not to disclose his status to his own lawyers.

His informer status was leaked to the press before his trial and Denton claimed this too should have been revealed by the prosecution to the trial judge, defence lawyers and Denton himself.

Lord Justice Mantell said the case had raised "the very strong suspicion that the media had been fed with information by someone closely connected with SO11 at Scotland Yard".

But, dismissing Denton's appeal, the judge said the evidence against him had been compelling and the guilty verdict "inevitable". There had been no duty on the part of the Crown to reveal Denton's informer status to Denton himself, as he was already well aware of the fact.

The only disadvantage suffered by Denton at the trial was that his legal team could not use the fact that he had been a police informant in their attempts to undermine one prosecution witness.

Denton entered the country illegally in 1993. The judge said that he had been paid for the information he provided to police "but there is no doubt that he was playing a very dangerous game".

Dismissing the appeal, Lord Justice Mantell concluded: "We think that even at the stage when proceedings were discontinued, the evidence of guilt was overwhelming ... a guilty verdict became inevitable."

Denton was refused permission to appeal further to the House of Lords.