The media today is full of the allegations made by a retired police officer claiming that he was asked to "dig the dirt" on the Lawrence family following the murder of their son Stephen 20 years ago.
Now it is a fact that the majority of murders are carried out by members of the family or someone close to the family, and that random murders of the type carried out by the likes of Ian Brady are quite rare.
For that reason, in the majority of police murder investigations, when the culprit is not immediately apparent as in the case of Drummer Lee Rigby, the police will investigate the family and friends as a matter of routine. Only today we read of the father of an eleven year old girl being arrested on suspicion of her murder, and almost every week we read of similar cases. A month ago, there was news of the conviction of Tia Sharp's step-grandfather for her murder and even in the case of April Jones, the murderer was someone she knew and trusted
In my view, the police would have been guilty of gross negligence if they had not looked at the family of Stephen Lawrence and at Stephen's friend Duwayne Brooks who claimed to have witnessed the murder. It took place in an area where there were numerous gang crimes, and for all the police knew at the start of the investigation, this could have been such a crime and the only witness could have been implicated.
So what is the difference between "investigating the family" and "digging the dirt"? Other than the fact that the first expression is likely to be used by a senior office, and the later by an ordinary constable, they both mean much the same. Investigations are to establish the facts, and presumably having finished "digging the dirt", the police were able to conclude that the family was in the clear, whatever else went wrong with the investigation.
What has surprised me is that everyone has again jumped on the bandwagon, from the Home Secretary downwards; the furore is likely to make life more difficult for the police when investigating future murders as it will make them more reluctant to look at the families and close friends.
I would also ask why the officer concerned didn't raise his concerns at the time of the Macpherson enquiry. Could it have been because that what he is claiming now is a complete distortion of the facts, written in emotive language, designed to secure publicity for a book he has written?
After 20 years, it's time to let sleeping dogs lie.
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