Police insist that Reel died in `tragic accident'

THE SENIOR officer in charge of the "flawed" investigation into the death of the Asian student Lakhvinder "Ricky" Reel yesterday defended his reputation before the West London Coroners' Court.

Superintendent Charles "Bob" Moffat - now retired - insisted that he was an officer with an "outstanding" record, despite criticism from a Police Complaints Authority (PCA) inquiry which had found "flaws and weaknesses" in the Metropolitan Police investigation. Mr Moffat - pointing out that he had an average of pounds 10,000 to spend on such cases - said that pounds 2.5m was spent "scrutinising my work as a result of complaints that were made".

Mr Reel, 20, a Brunel University student, had been out with three friends in the early hours of 15 October1997 when they were attacked by two white youths. The friends scattered only to discover that they had lost Mr Reel. A week later his body was pulled from the river Thames at Kingston upon Thames, Surrey.

Supt Moffat immediately told Mr Reel's parents the fall into the river was a tragic accident without - so the family claim - properly investigating possible links between the death and the earlier racist attack.

Yesterday the former superintendent told the coroner, Dr John Burton: "During the year I was investigating the Ricky Reel case I was responsible for over 20 murder inquiries, of which only two were unsolved. I had an outstanding success rate." Referring to the sensitive nature of the Reel case, he added: "I would have been astounded had I not been complained about."

Earlier in the day, Detective Chief Inspector Sue Hill, who took over the reinvestigation of the death, admitted: "It has been accepted by a PCA report that mistakes were made. I am not going to say any different. We have apologised for those mistakes."

However, Det Ch Insp Hill - who works under the remit of Scotland Yard's new Racial and Violent Crimes Taskforce - insisted that she "had moved heaven and earth" to re-examine Mr Reel's death, painstakingly searching out every possible avenue of evidence.

She had, she said, come to the same conclusion as the original inquiry despite having a "completely open mind" when she took over the investigation. "If you pushed me, I think I have reached the stage when I would say that everything points to it being a tragic accident," she said, adding: "I have still not found anybody that could take this matter any further and I have tried."

Under cross examination from Michael Mansfield QC, who is representing the Reel family, Det Ch Insp Hill acknowledged she had been given an "impossible task" trying to re-investigate the death 13 months after it occurred. She added that her task in tracing the white youths had been made all the more difficult by them being publicly branded racist murderers.

Det Ch Insp Hill said several policy changes had been instigated by the Metropolitan Police as a direct result of the case. The reason Mr Reel's friends had never been shown photos of known local racists was because there were none available. A "rogues gallery" of racists has now been established. To roars of disagreement from a packed gallery of race campaigners, Det Ch Insp Hill added: "People have got more confidence in the police to report it [racial incidents]."

The inquest continues.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
books...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Romelu Lukaku scored twice to add to the hat-trick he registered in the first leg in Switzerland
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Brand Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Do you wish to be part of an exciting journey ...

Guru Careers: Talent Manager

£30-35k (P/T - Pro Rata) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienc...

Recruitment Genius: Print / Warehouse Operative

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join ...

Beverley James: Accounts Payable

£23,000: Beverley James: Do you have a background in hospitality and are you l...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower