Secret Met report: Senior Stephen Lawrence officer was corrupt

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A secret report says Ray Adams, pictured in 2012, was cleared in an earlier corruption investigation after “fictitious” testimony from a police informant
By Daniel De Simone
Correspondent, BBC News

A senior officer involved in the Stephen Lawrence murder case was corrupt, according to a secret Met Police report uncovered by the BBC.

It said Ray Adams was cleared by a corruption probe which relied on false testimony from a man linked to the family of one of Stephen’s killers.

The revelation contradicts years of police denial about the role of corrupt officers in the case.

Mr Adams says he has asked the Met to investigate the allegations.

The Metropolitan Police did not answer the BBC’s questions about the report’s conclusions regarding Mr Adams.

The force said it will review material before deciding whether any further action is required.

Imran Khan, solicitor for Stephen’s mother Baroness Lawrence, said the report about Mr Adams – a former commander, who was once head of criminal intelligence for the entire Met – was “dramatic, disturbing and shocking”.

Sir William Macpherson’s landmark 1998 public inquiry into the murder did not hear about this link between Mr Adams and the informant.

Fourteen years later, the Met said there was no suggestion of any relationship between the two.

Stephen, aged 18, was murdered in April 1993 in a racist attack by a gang of young white men in Eltham, south-east London. The failure to bring the killers to justice prompted a national outcry. Two men were eventually convicted in 2012. Other suspects have never been convicted.

The initial police investigation, perhaps the most controversial of the past 30 years, has long been a focus of corruption allegations, both at the 1998 public inquiry and in an official review 16 years later.

Stephen Lawrence’s murder and the failed investigation sparked a landmark public inquiry

Imran Khan said he wants the Met to “apologise for not telling Baroness Lawrence and her family about what they knew, and I want them to apologise to Sir William Macpherson’s inquiry and to admit that they misled that inquiry”.

Ray Adams, who retired from the force in August 1993, was one of those under scrutiny. In the late 1980s, he had been investigated and cleared by a major internal corruption inquiry.

Mr Adams went on to be a senior officer in the south London area of the Met responsible for the Lawrence investigation and was directly involved in the case for a short time.

The Macpherson inquiry said it had seen nothing to suggest he was corruptly involved in trying to hold back the murder investigation. The secret report also said there was no evidence that Mr Adams influenced the investigative team in the Lawrence murder inquiry.

Now 81, Mr Adams has always denied being corrupt, citing the fact he never faced either disciplinary or criminal proceedings.

But the secret Scotland Yard report, now uncovered by the BBC, concluded he was corrupt and detailed how the 1980s investigation against him was manipulated.

The report sets out an extraordinary tale involving a crooked antiques dealer, clandestine police operations and one of Britain’s most notorious criminals.

The secret report – 2000

Marked as secret and prepared in 2000 for the Met’s anti-corruption unit, the report was about officers connected to the Lawrence case.

It concluded Mr Adams was cleared by the 1980s corruption probe after it received a “totally fictitious” account by a police informant who was connected to the family of David Norris – one of the two men who were convicted of the murder in 2012.

The report says the informant must have been “coached” by Mr Adams or another officer, with the informant’s lying account discrediting a witness against Mr Adams. This amounted to “flagrant acts of attempting to pervert the course of justice”.

The informant, also called David Norris, was killed by a hitman in 1991. He was known as “David Norris (deceased)” in the public inquiry into the Lawrence case, to distinguish him from the David Norris who would later be found guilty of killing Stephen.

The informant David Norris gave false testimony during a corruption investigation into Ray Adams, the secret report says

David Norris, Stephen’s killer, was from a south London criminal family headed by his gangster father Clifford.

The informant was known to have associated with the Norris crime family.

In 1989, police stopped the informant David Norris leaving a meeting with a high-ranking drug dealer who was a relative of the Norris family. The informant told officers he was a cousin of Clifford Norris, although an actual familial relationship has never been confirmed.

David Norris (right) and Gary Dobson were jailed in 2012 for killing Stephen

The story of how this informant became involved in a major Scotland Yard corruption investigation and the later Stephen Lawrence murder inquiry, reads more like fiction than fact.

It all began in July 1988 after a handler of stolen goods was arrested in Tooting, south London, by detectives from Surrey Police.

The crooked antiques dealer – 1988

The arrested man, James “Piggy” Malone, was an antiques dealer who lived in leafy Dorking, but he also ran a network of burglars who stole to order, breaking into houses throughout southern England.

Surrey detectives had set up an operation to target Malone.

The secret Scotland Yard report says that, on being arrested, Malone uttered a stream of profanities relating to Ray Adams, whom he referred to as “Ken Noye’s mate” – meaning the notorious gangster Kenneth Noye.

By then, Noye had already stabbed a Met Police officer to death and been involved in the selling the gold from the 1983 Brink’s-Mat robbery, a £26m heist that was later dramatised in the BBC TV series The Gold.

Malone expressed willingness to make a statement on Mr Adams, but he subsequently refused to co-operate, the report says.

The BBC has traced people familiar with the Surrey investigation. They corroborated some details in the Met’s secret report, but also added additional information.

The Surrey team briefed the Met on their investigation because it regularly strayed into London and they needed to ask for assistance. But after they did, the operation started to go badly, and it appeared Malone and his burglars suddenly had knowledge of what was happening.

Antiques dealer James Malone sparked the corruption investigation into Ray Adams, the secret report says

After the operation began to go wrong, the Surrey team decided on an extraordinary ploy: they announced the investigation had been shut down, but then reopened it in secret – and withheld this information from Scotland Yard.

The new operation resulted in the arrest of Malone, who was visibly shocked and blurted out words which the officers took to mean he had paid Mr Adams, according to the report and people familiar with the investigation.

The whole matter was therefore referred to the Met’s anti-corruption unit.

After Malone’s arrest, a senior Surrey officer recalled one of their informants had previously stated that “Malone had a high-ranked police officer by the name of Ron or Ray in his pocket”, according to the 2000 Met report.

But the report says the allegation made by the Surrey informant was “never fully progressed” by the Met.

The informant David Norris’ account – 1988-89

The secret Met document also reveals the information about Ray Adams relying on evidence from the informant David Norris.

It says a detective submitted a report “vaguely dated” October 1988, detailing information apparently supplied by an informant he handled, with the alias “John Tracy”.

In reality, the secret document from 2000 reveals that Tracy was David Norris.

Tracy was said to have told the Met detective that Malone was a close associate and had been openly stating that Malone’s claims about Mr Adams were “totally malicious and false”.

Ray Adams had recently transferred to the same branch of the Met which generated the informant Tracy’s report.

The informant’s account had been provided to Mr Adams “for his information” and to share with the Met’s anti-corruption unit at the time, “if indeed the matter is being investigated by them”.

When quoting these words in the 2000 secret report, the author added an exclamation mark afterwards, to indicate astonishment.

Mr Adams did not provide the information to anti-corruption officers until the end of January 1989, which the secret report says was an “incredible” delay.

The secret report says Mr Adams or another officer must have “coached” the informant in the 1980s corruption probe

When the informant Tracy was interviewed, he is said to have given a “faultless performance”, which reinforced the Met team’s misgivings about Malone.

The 1980s investigation in effect exonerated Adams and portrayed Malone unfavourably. A file was sent to the Crown Prosecution Service, which said there was no case to answer.

The investigation concluded that Malone had been referring to an earlier case during which he had been investigated by Ray Adams. The case cost him money and had led to him taking the Met to court.

But the secret document from 2000 concludes the 1988-89 report based on testimony from David Norris – aka John Tracy was “totally fictitious” and written to “discredit Malone and prevent his use as a witness against Adams”.

It says Norris must have been “coached” by Mr Adams or a handler prior to his interview and the story was “accepted with alarming ease” by anti-corruption detectives.

The racist murder – 1993

Four years later, when Stephen Lawrence was murdered, Ray Adams was a commander in the section of the force responsible for the homicide investigation.

His known involvement in the case was limited to signing a letter to the Lawrence family solicitor, Imran Khan. Mr Adams also appeared in a decision log relating to family liaison.

He went off sick in May 1993 and did not return to work prior to his retirement in August that year.

Imran Khan said the Lawrence family have always regarded his appearance in the case as “suspicious” and that “we now know” a Met report concluded he was corrupt prior to his involvement in the Lawrence murder.

The bus stop where Stephen Lawrence was waiting before he was killed (photo from 2012)

He said they now needed to know whether Mr Adams’s activities affected in any way the outcome of the murder investigation.

The first lead investigator on the case had to leave the role after a few days because he was involved in the trial of those who had murdered the informant David Norris in 1991.

It meant Norris’s name featured in the public inquiry into Stephen’s death, but the inquiry did not hear the extent of the link between him and Ray Adams.

The inquiry – 1998

At the inquiry, the Lawrence family formally raised suspicions that Mr Adams’s role in the case masked his real aim of influencing the investigation to prevent the suspects being arrested quickly. The family argued this was possibly because of his previous contact with Kenneth Noye, who in turn had links to Clifford Norris – the father of one of the suspects.

When questioned during an appearance at the inquiry, Mr Adams denied even knowing who Clifford Norris was at the time Stephen Lawrence was murdered. Mr Adams said the suspicions about him were a “Merlin’s broth of magic and mirrors and innuendo and nudges”.

He said: “I defy anybody to produce one ounce of evidence.”

Imran Khan, Baroness Lawrence’s solicitor, said the family now need to know if Mr Adams’ activities affected the investigation

During the inquiry hearing, Mr Adams expressed discomfort at questions relating to the deceased David Norris, saying “protocol” meant he never answered questions about informants. This was despite it being publicly known the dead man had been an informant, and the inquiry chairman saying the subject could be publicly discussed.

The Met itself gave a misleading account of Mr Adams and the deceased David Norris’s relationship in a review published in 2012, which said the police commander would have only had “distant oversight” of the informant.

“There is no suggestion of any personal relationship between the two,” it said.

The secret report from 2000, now seen by the BBC, shows the Met knew there was a significant connection between them.

The cop killer

New information about the relationship between the Brink’s-Mat gangster Kenneth Noye and Ray Adams is also revealed in the Met’s secret report.

The report states it was “strongly suspected Adams had a long-standing corrupt relationship with Noye” but that further investigation would be needed. No such investigation took place.

In 1983, Noye had stabbed to death Det Sgt John Fordham, a Met surveillance officer, in the garden of his Kent home. He was acquitted of murder at trial after claiming self-defence. Noye went on to carry out the M25 road rage murder of Stephen Cameron in 1996.

According to an account in the secret report, gangster Kenneth Noye said of Mr Adams: “We go back a long way.”

According to the report, the Met held a photocopy of a pocketbook entry from the 1980s by an officer who escorted Noye to court. The officer had been investigating Noye’s role in the conspiracy surrounding the robbery of the Brink’s-Mat gold.

The pocketbook recorded that, while Noye was in a cell at court one day in 1985, he requested that the officer ask Ray Adams to visit. Noye stated: “We go back a long way and I know I can trust him.”

The report says: “Noye was adamant that he wanted no-one to know that Adams was going to visit him and suggested that he visit under the guise of Noye’s accountant.”

A later statement by a deputy assistant commissioner said he agreed to meetings between Ray Adams and Noye, who intimated he had been an informant for the detective.

Using an exclamation mark to express the author’s astonishment, the 2000 Met report said: “Adams met Noye on two occasions, however nothing useful was reported from those meetings!”

‘Threat’ to the Met

The 2000 report also considered Mr Adams’s alleged links with another criminal family and said “the inescapable conclusion is that there was an unhealthy, corrupt relationship”.

Even though seven years had passed since his retirement, the report warned Mr Adams continued to pose a threat to the Met Police. It said his “extensive networking” meant he still had access to serving officers “who can continue to provide sensitive intelligence which he can then broker to criminals”.

But the report said further investigation was needed to assess the risk.

Mr Adams told the BBC these were “very serious allegations” against him. “All such allegations are a matter for the police the investigate,” he said.

He said he had referred the allegations to the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of the Met Police and said he had asked them to appoint a senior officer or officers to investigate.

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