Police investigated over suspicious death
source / credits: David Leppard, Sunday Times
submitted by: Zinzi Eka-Naphtali – March 2014
Updates on this case will be listed at the foot of this item
Scotland Yard is facing a new race storm after a damning internal inquiry revealed “a catalogue of errors” in its investigation into the suspicious death of a black London bus driver. A leaked Metropolitan police report says the blunders “amount to a failing in duty on the part of the investigating officers” that looked into the death by burning of Kester David, a 53-year-old bus driver.
His mother claims the Met failed to investigate the case thoroughly because the victim and his family are black. Senior figures in the black community have compared the David investigation to the Stephen Lawrence case, claiming it shows that the Met has learnt little since the botched inquiry into the black teenager’s murder in 1993.
The charred remains of David’s body were discovered early on July 7, 2010, in Palmers Green, north London. Although police repeatedly told the family David had taken his own life, a coroner returned an open verdict after a forensic expert said he could not rule out the involvement of a third party in his death.
The scathing internal report found officers had not checked CCTV footage and had failed to cross-reference DNA found at the scene, to examine mobile phone evidence and to question potentially key witnesses. David’s family are demanding an independent investigation by the police watchdog. They believe he may have been murdered because he was a police informant.
News of the case will fuel concerns that the Met is failing to examine racism allegations properly. It is currently investigating 18 officers and one civilian employee over 10 claims of racism.
David’s family are being supported by Alex Pascall, a black broadcaster and historian. He is related to David, who was his wife’s nephew. “At no point … do I feel that the police have conducted a robust investigation into the murder of this man,” said Pascall.
The internal Met inquiry in January found that detectives based at Edmonton police station had ignored potentially vital evidence. The report details how, within hours of the discovery of David’s body, a witness living close to the scene rang police to report hearing screams around the time the victim died. It was, however, more than a year before he provided full details to officers after being approached as part of the internal inquiry.
A second witness — the bakery manager at a branch of Morrisons — reported seeing a white Mercedes Sprinter van in the supermarket’s car park at about 3.45am and two white men walking towards where David’s body was later found. He contacted police but it was more than a year before a statement was taken.
During last year’s inquest, the family’s lawyer said “it was no secret the family believe there was someone else involved” in the death. One theory is that he may have been killed because he was “doing undercover work for the police”.
Documents found after his death show David bought surveillance equipment before visiting a nightclub that, the family say, was of interest to police. During his hearing at the inquest, Detective Sergeant Christopher Kirk, who was involved in the investigation, said:
“If he was working as an undercover operative in the Metropolitan police, I would not know about it because we just don’t bandy about who are informants and who are not.” Kirk also accepted his officers had failed to ask questions about the identity of a mystery man who had answered David’s mobile phone and then hung up shortly before his death.”
David’s family say the victim had no known enemies. In a statement to the Met’s internal complaints department, his mother Winifred Griffith said: “If Kester had been a white man, the police would have conducted a much more effective investigation.” The Met said: “There have been a number of reviews carried out by senior officers from the borough, and the results of those reviews remain under consideration. No evidence of racism has been found.”
Kester David’s family plan to sue Met after his death
12 January 2016
Burned informant Kester David’s mother slams Met ‘cover up’
13 August 2014
Did police cover up murder of ‘informant’?
7 July 2012
Hogan-Howe confronted by Kester David’s brother on LBC
13 April 2012