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Last Updated: Friday, 27 June, 2003, 15:00 GMT 16:00 UK
Corrupt 'Sweeney' officers jailed
Kevin Garner
Kevin Garner turned informant after being involved in corruption
Five detectives were jailed two years ago in one of the biggest anti-corruption investigations in the UK, it has emerged.

The five Flying Squad members were convicted of stealing more than 200,000 of the money recovered after a 1.4m security van robbery, the Metropolitan Police (MPS) said on Friday.

Reporting of the case was banned during a continuing anti-corruption inquiry.

But the restriction was lifted on Friday, as four officers were cleared of similar charges at the Old Bailey.

The five jailed men - all former or serving Flying Squad officers based at Rigg Approach in Walthamstow, north east London - were arrested as part of Operation Ethiopia - an investigation launched in 1998.

Detective Constable Terence McGuinness and retired Detective Constable Kevin Garner were each sentenced to seven years in jail in January 2001.

These police officers abused their positions of trust to steal the proceeds of a major crime
Detective Chief Superintendent Shaun Sawyer

They pleaded guilty to a range of offences including conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and conspiracy to steal.

Detective Constable David Howell, Detective Sergeant Eamonn Harris and retired Detective Inspector Fred May were also sentenced to seven years in January 2001.

Their convictions were upheld by the Court of Appeal in February 2003.

Operation Ethiopia was launched in January 1998 after McGuinness and Garner, made allegations of corruption against Flying Squad colleagues.

The two officers had themselves been subject to an anti-corruption inquiry and were arrested in 1997.

Cash seized

Following their arrest they elected to become informants and to give information about other corrupt officers they had worked with.

Garner told police of one occasion where officers had stolen the proceeds from a 1.4m armed robbery.

The robbery took place on a Security Express van in south east London in January 1995.

The original corruption inquiry had an undoubted effect upon morale, with some officers having to endure the stigma of having worked alongside the corrupt few
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Alan Brown

Howell, Harris and May all worked on the investigation and Garner alleged the officers used an informant who had been released from prison on the pretext of helping police.

Instead he took part in committing the security van robbery.

Some officers at Rigg Approach then became involved in the investigation and seized the opportunity to use the informant to steal 200,000 from the proceeds of the robbery before sending him back to jail.

On Friday, the head of the Anti-Corruption Command, Detective Chief Superintendent Shaun Sawyer said: "These police officers abused their positions of trust to steal the proceeds of a major crime and in doing so became criminals themselves."

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Alan Brown, head of the Flying Squad, said: "The last few years have been a testing period for the Flying Squad.

"The original corruption inquiry had an undoubted effect upon morale, with some officers having to endure the stigma of having worked alongside the corrupt few.

"Despite this, these officers remained incredibly focused. Their operational results bear testimony to that."

In was revealed at the Old Bailey on Friday that Garner was too ill to give evidence in the trial of four more officers, leading to the acquittals.

He is now part of a witness protection programme and has been given a new identity.




SEE ALSO:
Investigating the Flying Squad
27 Jun 03  |  London
Supercop turned supergrass
27 Jun 03  |  London
Police corruption hotline launched
04 Mar 03  |  Northern Ireland
Force sets up anti-corruption team
06 Jun 03  |  West Midlands


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