I’m not convinced I trust the police any more – especially when they say they’ve got the right man in the April Jones case.
My reason may surprise you. It all has to do with Jimmy Savile, my own experiences of Dyfed Powys Police, and the Hillsborough Inquiry.
It seems the Savile case has turned up large numbers of people who said they complained that the veteran TV and radio presenter had abused them, but that they were turned away by the authorities. Nobody did anything.
By last Friday evening (October 12), there were 300 leads and 40 alleged victims. Lord Falconer said on the BBC’s Any Questions: “People were obviously complaining about his behaviour and if you complain that you are being abused by somebody in power, whether it be a parent and a child, an older person and a child, a person in authority and somebody who is a fan, and you are told, ‘Just forget it – it never happened’, that makes the thing so much worse.
“The evidence that that happened is pretty overwhelming now… A particular newspaper identified a gentleman who complained about it; he was told that nothing would be done about it. Complaints were made, and they were rejected.
“Once you complain and nothing is done about it, you so undermine trust in the institutions, and we know this from other events that have happened, for example, the attitude that the Roman Catholic Church took to persistent abuse.”
This is the experience of my girlfriend (I call her Mrs Mike in this blog). Her mother got into an unfortunate relationship with an extremely abusive man in the mid-1970s, when Mrs Mike was seven. My girlfriend had to endure 10 years of physical, psychological and sexual abuse (of the worst kind) before she was able to get away.
She was not, emotionally speaking, able to make a complaint to the police until four years after that and, from what’s been said above, you should already know what they told her: “There’s no evidence. We’re not going to do anything.”
They did say they would keep her information on file indefinitely, and if anybody else came forward, they would reopen the case. This has turned out to be a lie.
Mrs Mike’s mother remained in that abusive relationship for 28 devastating years. During that time, she made repeated attempts to get away, to report the abuses against her to the police, and to get criminal proceedings started against her abuser. On every single occasion she was told by police officers to go home, and that they were not going to do anything. Every time. They couldn’t say there wasn’t any evidence because these occasions were immediately after incidents of violence or abuse. But they weren’t interested.
Back to Any Questions, which also discussed Hillsborough. As Greg Dyke, a former BBC Director General, put it: “Hillsborough, as we now know, is a massive institutional cover-up… The police behaved… appallingly. They made a mistake which created the thing in the first place… But the cover-up is not acceptable under any circumstances. And then the briefing of the press to blame it on the victims of Hillsborough, and saying they were drunk, and saying they urinated over other people, and stole from them is beyond contempt.”
Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, said: “The challenge to confidence in public institutions, if there is evidence of systematic cover-up… is very, very damaging.”
Lord Falconer again: “96 people died in a disaster to which the police very substantially contributed. For 23 years the police told lies about what had happened and the families of the 96 who died felt utterly obliged to protect the reputations of those whom they loved, who had died. And this was despite the fact that the police continued in the cover-up, the judges who looked at it failed to spot the cover-up, the other police forces that looked at it failed to spot the cover-up and it took the Bishop of Liverpool and a panel of independent people, utterly separate from the traditional organs of the State who look at these things to uncover the truth.
“Those 23 years of pain and suffering should not lead to the situation where people say, ‘It’s too late’ and the families don’t get justice. A family member whose son died in the disaster said, ‘My other children were very young… they grew up during those 23 years and I never noticed them growing up; I don’t know what happened’. Another person, who is a mother, said that she was 42 when her loved ones died. She’s now 65 but she still feels like she’s 42; those 23 years have been lost – and the idea that they should not get justice after 23 years is an utter affront to our society.”
After Mrs Mike’s mother finally escaped, she contacted my girlfriend and they went to the police jointly. They believed that the evidence my girlfriend had provided previously, coupled with the evidence of her mother (who was finally able to talk about it, having got away from her abuser’s controlling influence) could lead to a conviction. And what did the police say?
“We’ve destroyed that file. It’s gone.”
My experience of police investigations into child sexual abuse (and the abuse of adults), is therefore exactly the same as that endured by the Jimmy Savile whistle-blowers – the police didn’t want to know. And, like the police involved in Hillsborough, they covered up the evidence, ensuring that the person responsible for ruining these people’s lives would never face the justice he richly deserves.
The physical and emotional effects of such abuses are so devastating I do not believe it is possible to describe them in a way that another person could understand. You would have to live through them – and I would not wish that on anybody.
What does this have to do with the April Jones case?
The service involved with Mrs Mike’s case – and that of her mother – is Dyfed Powys Police, the same force that has been investigating the kidnapping of April Jones.
Consider the situation with April. She was abducted. Police were informed. Did they work out how far away a kidnapper could have travelled in the time between the last sighting of April and the missing person’s report being made, arrange to block all road routes leading away from Machynlleth and search vehicles on their way out? No. And that’s just the obvious course of action. I wonder what else they didn’t do.
They instead concentrated on searching the land in and around Machynlleth. They arrested a man 18 hours after April went missing. She was not with him. We do not know what evidence was found which led to his arrest. We are led to believe that the suspect was known to police previously.
Under those circumstances, it is easy to question the investigators’ actions. Under pressure to come up with a perpetrator at short notice, did they pick up their list of known felons, find one who (we are told) knew the victim and her family, who had a record, and turn him into their scapegoat?
In the time period under discussion here, that poor little girl could have been spirited out of the UK, right under the noses of the authorities. I do not believe it is reasonable to accept that the police did everything in their power to find her, considering the information we have about what they did.
I will only be prepared to believe Dyfed Powys Police have the right man if, when the case comes to court, he can make a full and frank confession that he kidnapped and murdered April, without any duress having been put upon him by investigating officers.
Otherwise, considering the record of the Dyfed Powys force, I will fear yet another police cover-up.
Will the upcoming election of Police Commissioners lead to increased confidence in a service that is utterly discredited? I wonder…