‘LORRYLOADS’ of documents were shredded by the Metropolitian police over the course of two days, including documents relating to the Stephen Lawrence case, a corruption inquiry has uncovered.
The destruction of the files was highlighted by the barrister Mark Ellison QC in his review of the Stephen Lawrence murder investigation.
Teenager Stephen Lawrence was murdered in a racist attack in Eltham, south east London, in 1993.
The Macpherson inquiry was set up to examine the failure of the police to prosecute Stephen Lawrence’s killers. It concluded in 1998 that the force was institutionally racist.
Ellison’s review has now found evidence that a detective involved in the original murder investigation had acted corruptly, and that material had been withheld from the Macpherson Inquiry into the police’s handling of the case.
Those essential documents may well have been amongst those that were shredded. The Met claimed that work was ‘ongoing’ to find out what happened to the shredded documents.
The material that was shredded was from a broader, top-secret investigation into possible police corruption that began in 1993 and came to be known as Operation ‘Othona’.
The Ellison report, published earlier this month, said it needed to see the Othona files to investigate possible links with the Lawrence case, and to establish what was known about police corruption at the time of the Macpherson Inquiry in 1998.
Some computer files relating to the Othona operation were found on a hard drive in a cardboard box in the Met Police’s professional standards department in November 2013. But hard copies of the intelligence were missing.
The Ellison review was told there had been a ‘mass shredding’ of them in 2003. Operation Othona is understood to have generated so much material that it is highly unlikely it could have been destroyed ‘by mistake’.
One source said there had been a ‘lorryload’ of documents, photographs and videos destroyed.
The paperwork would have included surveillance logs, listening device records and informant contact sheets.
A statement from Scotland Yard that was included in Ellison’s report appears to confirm the shredding: ‘The Met team who were gathering the material for Mr Ellison’s work found a computer hard drive.
‘As the officers were working to recover the content of that hard drive they were told that a number of documents were shredded over a two-day period in 2003.’