When the police are the villains – in fiction and in fact

A current storyline in a daytime soap opera finds a scenes of crime officer being called in to investigate a murder he himself committed. It looks like he won’t get away with it; in the real world, he almost certainly would.

Barry George

Doctors is one of the less illustrious soap operas on British TV; because it is aired in the afternoon, the scriptwriters have to tone it down a bit. In practice that means no excessive violence, and none of the stronger swear words, although strangling a woman with a towel, cutting off her finger, and – cameras averted – removing evidence of sexual contact, might just be construed as excessive.

This is where the scenes of crime officer found himself after he was taunted by a young floozy with whom he’d been having a relationship, even though he was old enough to be her father. He cut off her finger hoping the blame would be laid at the door of an aspiring serial killer known as The Scraper. Unfortunately for him, when The Scraper is caught and confesses, the man has a cast iron alibi for the third murder, and our man may just have overdone the copycat killing when it becomes clear that The Scraper’s full modus operandi was not yet in the public domain.

Help is at hand though in the form of Kevin, who is another of the victim’s liaisons. Having tried and failed to pin the other two murders on him, the local CID are convinced he is responsible for the third, if only they can find the murder weapon. At this point, the SOCO steps in with a carefully crafted suggestion to the local woodentop turned detective about where it might have been disposed; the plan works, and his mark thinks it is his own bright idea.

It would of course be premature to predict future events in a mythical provincial town, but it looks at though the perpetrator is about to come undone either by virtue of his apprentice, or by cracking up under the strain.

Meanwhile, back in the real world police officers get away with murder all the time, sometimes literally.

We are all familiar with the case of Rodney King, whose gratuitous beating by uniformed thugs shocked the world. When King’s assailants were acquitted, Los Angeles erupted in riots; it was all the fault of racism. Sigh. Back in 1976, Liddle Towers was literally beaten to death by eight police officers, but because he was white, there were no riots. Maybe there should have been? His de facto murder inspired no less than three contemporaneous songs including one by Tom Robinson.

Three years ago, six men were arrested in connection with the 1987 murder of Daniel Morgan in a Sydenham car park; this year, their trial collapsed. This was no cold case, the reason it took so long for a meaningful attempt to bring anyone to book, and for it eventually to be abandoned, had less to do with the quality of the evidence than with the people who were implicated in it. Morgan was investigating police corruption when he was axed to death; the reward for investigating police perfidy is always at least to be stonewalled, and sometimes, far worse.

After the case was finally dropped, Detective Chief Superintendent Hamish Campbell admitted the outcome was “wholly regrettable” adding “This current investigation has identified, ever more clearly, how the initial inquiry failed the family and wider public. It is quite apparent that police corruption was a debilitating factor in that investigation.”

Campbell did not work on this investigation; at one time he was what might be called an A List detective, but today in spite of his superficially impressive rank he is little more than a glorified press officer. It was Hamish Campbell who headed the Jill Dando inquiry which led to the arrest and conviction of “local nutter” Barry George on extremely tenuous evidence. His first appeal was dismissed but then new forensic evidence came to light amidst allegations that the police had lied – perish the thought. After a referral by the Criminal Cases Review Commission and a successful second appeal, the police and Crown again mustered a vigorous prosecution – vigorous in the innuendo department – of course he’s guilty, why else would they have arrested him? He lived around the corner. His eyes are too close together, etc.

This time, George was cleared – again without testifying – and walked free only to be denied compensation for the time he spent in gaol, with the further innuendo that the jury had returned the wrong verdict.

The consensus appears to be that Barry George was and is too dumb to have been able to plot and execute a murder of that sophistication, although at least two good judges beg to differ. Whatever, this is the investigation Campbell will be remembered for, and the albatross that will hang around his neck until he goes to meet that great haggis maker in the sky. Along with that other impeccably English detective, Tanky Challenor.

One of the many photographs of Jill Dando released in the wake of her April 1999 murder, a crime that remains unsolved to this day.

Which brings us right up to date, well, August 9, anyway, because surprisingly and disturbingly, this is the last time the so-called Independent Police Complaints Commission issued a press release on the case of Mark Duggan.

You will recall he was the gent who was shot dead in a minicab by armed police, an alleged execution that was used as a pretext by a motley crew of underclass blacks, spoilt little rich girls, escaped A&E patients and black bloch anarchists to riot, burn and murder.

Initially, it was claimed there had been an exchange of fire; later it transpired that although a police officer had been hit, the bullet was a ricochet from a police firearm. The next claim was that although Duggan had been armed, his gun had been wrapped in a sock. Granted the IPCC is carrying out a thorough investigation, but it has now had more than enough time to do that, and if it turns out that the race agitators are right, and that this gun was planted, we could see more riots. If that is indeed the case, let us hope that this time they are not directed at innocent shopkeepers and ordinary members of the public.

[The above op-ed was first published October 6, 2011.]

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