Focus: The Lawrence Inquiry - The copper who changed sides

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A former senior Scotland Yard officer played a key role in helping the Lawrence family pursue its fight for justice and its criticism of the police. Brian Boyce, who, as a detective chief superintendent, led the successful investigation into the pounds 27m Brinks Mat robbery, offered his services free of charge to the Lawrence's legal team after being outraged by what the family had suffered.

He helped barrister Michael Mansfield, QC, and solicitor Imran Khan to gather evidence against the five white youths suspected of murdering 18-year-old Stephen and to review the original failed police investigation into the murder. As well, he submitted a statement to the Macpherson inquiry on the Lawrence murder.

The role of Mr Boyce in the Lawrence affair has, hitherto, been undisclosed. The former soldier and highly respected officer with the anti-terrorist branch and crime intelligence did not want his work publicised. According to police sources, Mr Boyce's help for the Lawrence family was resented by some former senior colleagues, who saw it as potentially damaging to Scotland Yard. One very senior officer has not spoken to him since, according to the sources.

A senior detective said: "Brian has a reputation as a tough copper always at the sharp end. He always had a fierce loyalty towards his men and the Metropolitan Police. There was a certain amount of surprise when we found out he was doing this. But he has always been pretty independent and he obviously felt strongly about this. We have to accept that the observations he made about the investigation he made are vindicated by the report."

Mr Boyce carried out his task in his own time. The information he helped to gather was used in the private prosecution of the five suspects, Jamie and Neil Acourt, David Norris, Luke Knight and Gary Dobson. He also traced and interviewed Stephen's best friend, Duwayne Brooks, who is the chief witness to the murder.

Mr Boyce, now 61, had originally written to Mr Mansfield in April l995 after reading reports about the Lawrence case in newspapers. "Rather surprisingly, although we have been on opposing sides in a few trials over the years we have not seriously clashed to the best of my recollection. There are many things that I suspect we would disagree about, however, the successful prosecution of those responsible for the murder of young Stephen Lawrence is not amongst them," he wrote.

At the time, Mr Boyce was head of corporate security for Hill Samuel. The executives of the merchant bank not only gave him permission to take up work for the Lawrence team, but also encouraged him to do so because "they too felt outraged by what was happening. That is the thing about the Lawrence case: it brought together a lot of disparate people who all opposed what they saw as injustice."

Mr Boyce was asked by the solicitor to the inquiry to give his views on the original police investigation. He wrote: "On the basis of the facts within my knowledge and in particular that the suspects had been named to the officer in charge of the inquiry soon after the killings had taken place ... I am unable to understand or see any justification for the officer not conducting immediate arrest and search operations.

"It must have been clear even at that stage that forensic evidence would be an essential element ... To wait two weeks before conducting arrest and search operations is indefensible, in my view.

"The reason for his decision to wait for the length of time he did must be explained by the officer in charge. I have to say I cannot identify any good reason for his reticence to act. In my view he presided over an investigation that lacked investigative rigour at all levels. There also appeared to be a lack of drive and coordination from the top, for which he must take main responsibility.

"... The reports of how the Lawrence family and [Duwayne] Brooks were treated by other police officers immediately after the murder and during the inquiry, if true, indicate a lack of consideration and sensitivity where racial prejudice, either conscious or unconscious, cannot be ruled out."

Mr Boyce's task was helped by the fact that Detective Superintendent Bill Mellish, then in charge of the re-investigation, and Commander John Grieve, who was then head of criminal intelligence at Scotland Yard and who was to take over a new inquiry, had both served with him in the past. He also had meetings with Perry Nove, deputy commissioner of City of London police, and Ian Johnstone, the Yard's deputy assistant commissioner.

Mr Boyce praised Det Supt Mellish's re-investigation, which was subsequently also praised by the Macpherson report.

In his statement to the inquiry Mr Boyce said: "In every case I was known to the senior officer mentioned as a result of my previous service in the Metropolitan Police. I was given access to material that was highly sensitive and, as a result, so was Mr Mansfield and his legal team. This material was shown to us with the permission of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police."

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