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Lawrence story leak 'was negative'

A leaked story about the reopened investigation into the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence had a "negative" effect on the probe, the officer who led it has said.

Detective Chief Inspector Clive Driscoll, who led the Metropolitan Police's inquiry into Mr Lawrence's murder, said the Daily Mail story about advances in the investigation came just hours after a meeting with Mr Lawrence's mother and lawyers.

He also told the Leveson Inquiry into press standards that following the story, a witness was approached by a suspect. Mr Driscoll said the meeting on November 7 2007 finished at 8.30pm and while he was on the train home, he received a call saying a story would be running in the Daily Mail the next day.

"The information within the Mail certainly was the information we gave to that meeting, with the exception of the terminology used," he told the inquiry at the Royal Courts of Justice. He said he had "nothing but respect" for the newspaper's former crime editor Stephen Wright who wrote the article, but said it did have a negative effect on the investigation.

"I have admiration with what the paper did in supporting the family. I have admiration in Mr Wright pursuing it. The bit I can't understand is why, when you get there, you would then do anything to undermine it.

"Without confidence the police are about as much use as a chocolate teapot because we need people to feel confident to come to us. We need people to be able to tell us their story. If people feel threatened; and it is a fact that after this report a witness was visited by one of the suspects. Now that could have been a coincidence but I am a police officer so I'm cynical at birth.

"So it had a negative effect on the investigation. It had a negative effect on my team. It had a negative effect on how we reacted to our partners. I don't know who leaked this, so everyone became a suspect." He said after the article in the Mail on November 8, Mr Wright was spoken to and did not publish a second story.

Asked about the source of the November 8 2007 story, which Mr Wright said was a "follow-up" to a story the previous day, he told the inquiry: "I am particularly protective of sources. What I am happy to say was no one on that investigation team was responsible but I am loath to go beyond that."

He would not say whether it was a police officer, adding: "I am concerned, in the current climate. I have colleagues, former colleagues in the CRA (Crime Reporters Association), who have been receiving what I would call intimidating phone calls from a certain department in the Metropolitan Police, demanding to know who sources are."

Mr Wright said he called the Scotland Yard press bureau the evening before it was published and nobody asked him not to. He said: "We would not run that story had the police objected and never would we have run the story if we thought it was going to jeopardise the police investigation in any way. For us as journalists, as newspapers, these are finely balanced decisions."


From Belfast Telegraph