A retrial of eight former policemen cleared of fabricating evidence which led to the wrongful conviction of the "Cardiff Three" for murder is "highly unlikely" despite the discovery of supposedly shredded files, whose absence brought the case down, legal experts said yesterday.
The four files were found this week, less than two months after a court was told that South Wales police officers, working on the team that was investigating former officers from the same force, had destroyed them.
Two inquiries have been launched into the role of prosecutors and police in the bungled case that cost an estimated £30m to bring to trial after a decade-long investigation. The officers were accused of fabricating evidence which led to the conviction of the so-called "Cardiff Three" for the murder of Cardiff prostitute Lynette White.
The Crown Prosecution Service said it was "impossible to say at this stage" whether the eight officers could face a new trial. A law introduced in 2005 scrapped the 800-year-old practice of "double jeopardy" – which prevented someone from being tried for the same crime twice – but only under certain strict circumstances. The law applies to 30 serious offences but not the charge of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice that the eight officers faced during the trial at Swansea Crown Court, which collapsed in December after five months. Winston Roddick QC, said any new trial: "Would be highly unlikely."
It remained unclear yesterday who found the files in their original boxes and where they were. South Wales police and the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which had overseen the police operation since 2004, declined to comment.
The officers – Graham Mouncher, Thomas Page, Richard Powell, John Seaford, Michael Daniels, Peter Greenwood, Paul Jennings and Paul Stephen – were involved in the original investigation into the murder. All deny any wrongdoing. Another four people, including two officers, were due to stand trial this year but the case was scrapped after the apparent destruction of the files.
The Cardiff Three – Tony Paris, Yusef Abdullahi and Stephen Miller – were wrongly jailed for life in 1990 for the murder. They were freed in 1992 after their convictions were quashed.
The case was reopened in 2000 and security guard Jeffrey Gafoor was jailed for life for the murder in July 2003.