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Friday, 26 April, 2002, 10:59 GMT 11:59 UK
Damilola witness 'not swayed by reward'
Sergeant Carolyn Crooks
Sergeant Carolyn Crooks was criticised by the trial judge
A witness whose evidence was thrown out by the Damilola Taylor murder trial did not change her story to get a reward, the police officer responsible for her has said.

Sergeant Carolyn Crooks told the BBC the 14-year-old girl, known only as 'Bromley', changed her evidence to police because she was afraid of admitting she was at the scene.

But a former Flying Squad commander said offering witnesses rewards was clearly wrong, as it opened up the possibility of people lying to secure the money.

Evidence from Bromley, the prosecution's key witness, was thrown out by trial judge Mr Justice Hooper, who said she had been offered "inducements" and nothing she said could be relied upon.

Bromley's 'guilt'

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme Sgt Crooks denied she persuaded Bromley to change her story by saying she was more likely to get a reward if she was at the scene of Damilola's death.

Stairwell on North Peckham Estate
The stairwell where Damilola died
And she said that while it would have been better to have shown Bromley a map without details about his death, it revealed nothing which was not already in the news.

Sgt Crooks said she had simply explained that there was a better chance of getting a share of the 50,000 on offer if Bromley had witnessed what happened to Damilola.

"That's just a fact," Sgt Crooks said. "That's just something that had to be said because there's no getting away from the fact that a reward had been offered."

The officer said she believed the substance of Bromley's evidence remained the same and only the details of how she came about the information changed.

Sgt Crooks said: "She did not want to put herself actually there, because she felt guilt at the fact she had not called an ambulance, that she had not gone to help Damilola.

"She also mistakenly thought that because she was there she could be implicated in that as well."

'Virtually useless'

John O'Connor, a former Metropolitan Police Flying Squad commander, believes the issue of rewards to witnesses must be addressed.

He told GMTV: "They knew the witness was basically flawed and there was clear inducements that this witness had had.

"It made her evidence virtually useless."

Mr O'Connor added: "It is different if you have an informant who tells you where to get information from."

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Sergeant Carolyn Crooks
"There's no getting away from the fact that a reward had been offered"
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