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Last Updated: Friday, 27 June, 2003, 15:46 GMT 16:46 UK
Investigating the Flying Squad
Scene of Millennium Dome after attempted robbery
The squad foiled the attempted diamond robbery at the Dome
Tip-offs from two disgraced Metropolitan Police detectives began one of the UK's largest-ever police corruption investigations.

Although it has moved on from the image created by the 1970s drama The Sweeney, the Flying Squad remains world renowned for its successes in dealing with serious and organised crime.

Met chiefs praise officers who routinely deal with some of London's most dangerous criminals.

But senior officers had to call in their own Anti-Corruption Command following allegations made in 1998 against both serving and retired Flying Squad officers based at Rigg Approach.

It was the start of five years of investigations which would see 16 officers suspended - two of them later imprisoned alongside with a retired detective inspector.

Operation Ethiopia began with the arrests of Terence McGuinness and Kevin Garner following a sting operation by the Met.

McGuinness was a detective constable at Limehouse in east London while Garner had retired from the Met because of ill health.

Money recovered from the security van robbery
Police recovered 313,000 from the security van robbery

They admitted other crimes and became "supergrasses"- making allegations of corruption against other officers.

It led officers to re-examine a 1995 case in which 1.4m was stolen from a security van.

After information from Garner, corroborated by a police informant involved in the robbery, four serving officers based at Rigg Approach were arrested on suspicion of stealing 200,000 of the money.

Fred May, a retired detective inspector, Detective Sergeant Eamonn Harris and Detective Constable David Howell were convicted in January 2001 and sentenced to seven years imprisonment each.

Charges against Detective Constable Paul Smith were left to lie on file because he was not fit to stand trial.

A solicitor, Leslie Brown, admitted transferring the money and was given a suspended sentence.

The original two supergrasses, McGuinness and Garner, were also sentenced to seven years' imprisonment for a range of offences.

Another case, in which 1m cash was stolen by men posing as security guards at Romford Post Office in 1994, also came under scrutiny.

Four officers were charged in 1999 with conspiracy to steal and pervert the course of justice.

But the stress of six years as a supergrass took its toll on Garner's health and on Friday Judge Gregory Stone was told there was no chance of him being able to give evidence.

Kevin Garner
Kevin Garner became an informant after being arrested

The judge subsequently acquitted the four detectives of the charges against them.

The final toll of the five-year investigation is five officers jailed, one still suspended, three dismissed or told to resign and six retired.

Scotland Yard says there have been many changes in the processes and culture of specialist units such as the Flying Squad in the past five years.

Hopefuls have to undergo a "rigorous selection process", managers interfere more and the way officers deal with informers has changed "radically".

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Alan Brown, head of the squad, admitted the last five years had been a "testing time" and had affected honest officers' morale.

He said: "We are all appalled by the actions of those former officers whose only intention was to gain from corrupt practice and as a consequence sought to undermine the Flying Squad's good name.

"But we must remember that these events happened over eight years ago. The Flying Squad has moved on since then.

"It has come through this corruption inquiry even stronger and more successful than before."


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