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Probe after 'shredded' evidence that caused collapse of £30m police corruption trial is found

By John Fahey and Benjamin Wright

Missing documents which caused the collapse of a multi-million pound police corruption trial have been discovered by investigators - despite claims they were shredded.

Ten people, including eight former police officers, were accused of fabricating a case which led to the wrongful jailing of three innocent men for the 1988 murder of prostitute Lynette White.

All were acquitted last month after Swansea Crown Court heard that a top cold-case detective at South Wales Police (SWP) had ordered the destruction of files containing evidence relating to the case. Mr Justice Sweeney discharged the jury telling them the accused could not get a fair trial.

However, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which is investigating the collapse, yesterday revealed the missing files had been found in the hands of SWP.

The revelation prompted Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, to order an independent probe into the disclosure exercise conducted by prosecutors involved in the case.

Stephen Miller, who was wrongly jailed for the murder, last night reacted angrily to the development describing it as "ridiculous".

He told the Independent: "There has to be a public inquiry. Some of my co-accused have now passed away - where is the justice for them?"

IPCC commissioner Sarah Green confirmed documents that the Lynette White trial was told may have been destroyed had been discovered, "and were not shredded as first thought".

She said: "The court was told that some inquiries had been made about documents relating to complaints made to the IPCC itself and that it seemed that these documents may have been shredded on the orders of SWP senior investigating officer Chris Coutts.

"The documents were found in the original boxes that the IPCC had sent those files to SWP as part of the trial disclosure process in 2009. These boxes were still in the possession of SWP and have subsequently been verified."

The IPCC said its ongoing investigation would seek to establish what happened to the two files of documents, while liaising with officals from the Crown Prosecution Service.

Mr Starmer, who was informed of the discovery by the IPCC, said: "Shortly after the collapse of this trial I initiated a full and detailed review of the circumstances in which the decision to offer no further evidence was made.

"I asked leading counsel for the prosecution to prepare a comprehensive analysis of the reasons for the decision.

"I have now considered that analysis and as part of the review have decided to ask Her Majesty's Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate, an independent statutory body, to consider the way in which the prosecution team conducted the disclosure exercise in this case."

Miss White's body was found with more than 50 stab wounds.

Detectives arrested Mr Miller, Yusef Abdullahi, Tony Paris and cousins Ronnie and John Actie for murder.

The cousins were cleared but the three other men went on to serve two years in prison before being released on appeal. Mr Abdullahi, 49, died last year.

In 2003, Jeffrey Gafoor, a client of Miss White, admitted murdering her and is now serving life behind bars.

His admission was the catalyst for the investigation into the officers in the original case.

Arrests were made in 2005, and the 10 defendants went on trial accused of bullying witnesses into agreeing to fabricated accounts of the killing.

Senior among them were ex-superintendent Richard Powell, 58, and former chief inspectors Thomas Page, 62, and Graham Mouncher, 59.

They were accused of conspiring with Michael Daniels, 62, Paul Jennings, 51, Paul Stephen, 50, Peter Greenwood, 59, and John Seaford, 62, to pervert the course of justice.

Civilians Violet Perriam, 61, and Ian Massey, 57, together with Mouncher, were also accused of two counts of perjury.

When the trial collapsed it was wrongly claimed Mr Coutts, who headed the cold case review, had ordered the destruction of material relating to a complaint made by John Actie to the IPOCC.

Mr Starmer added that he had agreed a number of terms of reference with HM Chief Inspector, Michael Fuller. They include the HMCPSI's independent review to examine whether the prosecution team "approached, prepared and managed disclosure in this case effectively".

Another area which will be looked at is whether the prosecution team "complied with their disclosure duties properly".

Mr Fuller said: "It is important the public can have confidence in the way the CPS conducts its cases and the Inspectorate will examine the issues with the utmost thoroughness.

"South Wales Police has decided to refer their part in this matter to the Independent Police Complaints Commission and we will work in tandem with the IPCC inquiry into what happened."

A South Wales Police spokesman said: "This is an ongoing IPCC investigation and, as such, it would be inappropriate to comment."

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