Police, Prostitutes, Corruption and the Watchdog that didn’t Bark
THE UNTOUCHABLES, Scotland Yard’s anti-corruption squad, spent almost seven years trying to nail detective constable Dan Williams for pimping prostitutes on a sugar daddy website. But the prosecution has now collapsed in costly and embarrassing failure.
Williams, who is autistic, mostly represented himself since his arrest and suspension on full pay in 2014.
With no legal training, the 44-year-old detective ran circles around his legal opponents in a series of pre-trial hearings that slowly chipped away at the prosecution case and the evidence the police wanted to put before the jury in May.
On March 2, the prosecution was fatally wounded when Judge Michael Grieve QC chucked out the main charge against Williams of misconduct in a public office by controlling prostitutes for gain, describing it as “unsustainable”.
Six days later, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) formally abandoned the trial. The Untouchables hid behind the skirt of prosecutor Gillian Jones QC as the CPS announced it was “no longer in the public interest” to continue with the remaining lesser charges.
As will soon become apparent, the public interest in the case of Regina v DC Dan Williams lay somewhere else.
It can now be disclosed that the prosecution had also lost a legal bid to prevent DC Williams from airing explosive allegations of police corruption at his trial.
Judge Grieve ruled that Williams could present a whistle-blowing defence to the jury and argue that his prosecution was retaliation for speaking up about the “serious corruption and criminality” he claimed to have witnessed while serving on the Flying Squad, which investigates the UK’s most dangerous armed robbers.
Williams claims that between 2006 and 2011 senior officers turned a blind eye to violent criminals because they were valuable informants and, furthermore, that crucial evidence was withheld from a trial leading to a potential miscarriage of justice.
Judge Grieve’s ruling meant Williams could subpoena senior officers and prosecutors to answer questions about specific Flying Squad operations.
The prospect was so concerning that Gillian Jones QC is understood to have met with the director of public prosecutions to discuss an appeal.
In his explosive witness statement, revealed here for the first time, Williams claims senior officers were protecting a prolific armed robber known as ‘the Commander’, who was also an associate of a notorious London crime family.
Phone taps, surveillance and co-conspirators variously identified ‘the Commander’ as having a role in the £1.75m Menzies heist at Heathrow Airport in February 2004 and the £1.4m gold bullion robbery one month later at the Johnson Matthey depository in north London.
But according to Williams, senior officers refused to arrest the top gangster and his true role was kept hidden from the court because he was a valued informant who operated with impunity.
More startling, perhaps, is Williams’ claim that during the 2005 trial of four men for the Johnson Matthey robbery he was ordered to withhold vital evidence from their lawyers and the judge.
The Watchdog With No Bite
Williams’ witness statement dated 10 December 2018 was originally passed to the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) because he separately claimed the watchdog had been misled along with the coroner over a third Flying Squad operation. This had resulted in the “unnecessary” fatal police shooting in 2007 of two robbers at Chandler’s Ford in Hampshire.
Allegations of perverting the course of justice and perjury are at the top end of police corruption and very rare when they come from a serving detective.
However, for reasons it will not fully explain, the IOPC sat on Williams’ statement from December 2018 to June 2019. The watchdog then allowed Scotland Yard to investigate itself.
There was a double conflict of interest because the job of looking into Williams’ claims about the Flying Squad was given to the same anti-corruption unit that was behind his prostitution prosecution.
In February 2020, the Untouchables decided there was “no evidence” to support Williams’ claims.
A police spokesperson told The Upsetter:
“Given the complexity and sensitive nature of the large volume of material the officer provided, the IOPC referred the matter to the MPS on 14 June 2019 to review and make an initial assessment on the way forward. The Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards Anti-Corruption Command completed a fact-finding investigation and provided the IOPC with a report. The MPS was satisfied there was no evidence to support any of the criminal or misconduct allegations raised by the officer.”
The watchdog nodded in agreement.
Scotland Yard had successfully suppressed Williams’ corruption allegations without any independent investigation. But Williams was not to be bested.
It was in the face of this fierce opposition that he persuaded Judge Grieve he should be allowed to put the corruption claims before the jury as part of his whistle-blower defence.
Weeks later, on March 2, the judge excluded the main charge in the indictment against him. It was these two factors that led the CPS to abandon the entire prosecution.
Serpico or Bad Lieutenant?
The autistic detective had avoided prison. But his 23-year-police career was over. Behind the scenes secret negotiations were taking place to secure his retirement on medical grounds.
On March 8, dressed in a blue stripped tracksuit and wearing a high-spec white face mask, Williams walked out of Southwark Crown Court in south London a free man.
Before he left, he turned to Gillian Jones QC and joked that Cate Blanchett could play her in the film.
Williams was not a classic police whistleblower in the mould of Al Pacino’s Serpico. Harvey Keitel’s Bad Lieutenant would be nearer the mark.
In the vernacular of Scotland Yard detectives, Dan Williams ‘loved a Tom’ – London slang for a prostitute. He often filmed these sexual encounters, some of which took place while he was on duty. His wife only found out when the Untouchables raided the family home in 2014.
‘The Toms’, Williams insists, were unaware he was a detective. But at the very least, his desires made him vulnerable to blackmail by criminals and to disciplinary action by the police.
They also raise important questions about his motivation for speaking out and if this shaped the watchdog’s response to his corruption allegations.
Was his use of prostitutes a legitimate trigger for the Untouchables’ interest in Williams? Or did they target him because he had challenged corrupt practices in the Flying Squad and elsewhere? Was his whistleblowing an attempt to undermine the prostitution prosecution?
When and why Williams blew the whistle is not as important as whether he is telling the truth about impunity given to violent criminals, such as ‘The Commander’, who also liked a Tom.
The Flying Squad: A Corrupt Past
The Flying Squad has four branches in London each with their own sphere of responsibility for armed robberies in the four corners of the capital and its outer limits.
When Williams joined in 2004, the Flying Squad was only just recovering from a major corruption scandal six years earlier in its east London branch.
In 1998, the Untouchables launched a corruption drive that selectively targeted certain squads and left others alone. The Walthamstow branch of the Flying Squad was very much in the Untouchables’ cross hairs and crimes like the ones Williams was alleging were taken seriously back then.
Bent detectives were turned into supergrasses and revealed crimes ranging from planting weapons on robbers to stealing the proceeds of their crimes.
The ‘Commander’ featured in that corruption scandal. He was suspected of trying to blow up a criminal associate who was giving evidence against him and a group of corrupt Flying Squad detectives.
The close relationship between some detectives and their informants was found to be wide open to abuse. But effective policing can’t do without grasses.
They are a large part of what makes the Flying Squad and other specialist police units successful. A good informant is invariably a good criminal trusted by other villains because he is ‘at it’.
The unspoken pact between a police squad and the informant is that ‘their man’ gets a free pass on certain crimes because he delivers on bigger ones. It is sometimes argued that letting your informant ‘run’ is necessary because the more ‘naughty’ the underworld believe him to be, the less likely he will be fingered as a grass.
But there is an inherent tension in where the public interest lies between arresting dangerous armed robbers and allowing the same men to commit crime with impunity so they can inform on others.
The public interest can easily get lost in the private interest of the cops and robbers, without the need for a bribe. That’s because protecting a good informant is a sure fire way to promotion and prestige if the robberies he informs on end in convictions. And for the informant, he gets to settle scores, stay out of prison and keep the proceeds of crime.
By the time Williams arrived at the Flying Squad, informants were handled by a separate unit, SO10. This overhaul of the informant system was designed to prevent corruption, compromise and infiltration by criminals.
The Fifth Man
Williams was posted to the Barnes branch of the Flying Squad covering south west London, an area familiar to him. He was 26-years-old and raring to go.
In the first few months of 2004, the Barnes Flying Squad was busy investigating intelligence that had come from the National Crime Squad (NCS).
Williams learned that detectives from the NCS office in Swanley, Kent were working on a heroin case and had picked up intelligence from a phone box that a major armed robbery was about to go down in north London.
The Barnes Flying Squad was given the case even though the robbers and their target were on the north London patch of the Flying Squad branch based in Finchley.
Police sources say this is because a detective had transferred from the NCS office in Swanley to the Barnes Flying Squad bringing the armed robbery intelligence with him.
The same sources say Finchley helped Barnes with surveillance on the team of robbers who were identified as Kevin Fox, Paul Rayson, Kevin Wishart and inside man, Steve Blackman, who worked night shifts at Johnson Mattey’s precious metals depository in Edmonton
The trio were followed to Fox’s lock up and an observation post was set up across the road from the depository.
At 10.30pm on Saturday night March 27 2004, armed police lay in wait as the three robbers made their getaway from the depositary in a silver Mercedes weighed down with £1.4m of gold bars in the boot.
Hatton bullets shot out the tyres. But the Mercedes drove on until escape was futile and two unmarked police vehicles made a hard stop on the getaway car boxing it in on the bus lane.
Wishart, in body armour, threw his Smith & Wesson out of the window and was brought to the ground bemoaning loudly, “Why the fuck did I get involved? I’ve got a lovely family.”
Fox, a former Foreign Legionnaire, was also wearing body armour. He surrendered his Magnum pistol. But armed police nevertheless “battered” him, recalled one Flying Squad surveillance officer who was looking on.
Fox was repeatedly tasered in the neck. Hours later when a doctor examined him in a police cell, a Flying Squad officer tapped his side arm as the cuffs were removed and warned the robber against having a go.
Fox had put the robbery together. “It was my bit of work, my inside man,” he told the Upsetter. So it didn’t take long for him to identify who he thought was the informant on the job.
The robbery was almost called off because the gold melted into bars every day was never sufficient for the risk.
The inside man usually contacted Fox every day at around 6pm as he clocked on for the night shift. On the day of the robbery he rang to say there had been a ‘double melt’ – meaning a large amount of bullion in gold bars. The job was on.
As usual, Fox went to a phone box and contacted Rayson and Wishart on their burner phones to pass on the good news.
How the police knew the robbery was happening on March 27 when the robbers didn’t know until hours before was exercising Fox’s considerable intelligence. His thoughts turned to a fifth man who had pulled out with an injured hand after supplying the logistics for the robbery.
Waiting in Belmarsh Prison for their trial, Fox turned to Wishart one day and said he was certain it was the fifth man who had “bubbled up” everyone. Wishart was unconvinced. The fifth man was his mate and the person he’d brought into the robbery plan.
There’s no way ‘the Commander’, a prolific armed robber, was a police informant, Wishart replied.
The Duress Defence
Kevin Wishart was drawn into the orbit of south London villainy from running a nightclub security business in his late teens, he told the Upsetter.
It was the early 80s and he took to hanging out at a spieler run by Ronnie Olliffe. After a while people started to believe Wishart was an enforcer for the Old Kent Road face
At some point in the 90s, Wishart and Kevin Fox went into partnership. They both had an interest in guns and started providing armed security to night club promoters and other businessmen who were being shaken down or threatened by villains.
This, and his membership of a gun club whose owner sold weapons to the underworld, earned Wishart the reputation in police intelligence files of being a contract killer for organised crime, something he denies.
In the late 90s, Wishart met fellow south Londoner Chris McCormack at a golf club. By then, McCormack was a well-regarded premier league villain – a violent lone wolf trusted by the underworld because of his insatiable appetite for armed robbery.
McCormack’s criminal career started after he was kicked out of the army for attacking an officer. He soon made his name in the 70s working with the cream of London’s armed robbers.
After a sentence for attempted kidnap and robbery in the early 80s, McCormack emerged from prison to become one of the UK’s leading exponents of cash-in-transit robberies, which earned him the nickname among some as ‘the Commander’.
In the late 90s he was acquitted of the torture of a money man suspected of stealing from the UK’s leading organised crime family, the Adams brothers in north London, who he was close to.
Detectives who followed him and tapped his phones swapped stories in the pub of the sex toy McCormack was said to carry around in a special case for trips abroad. On one occasion in Dublin, local Toms he called up from a tapped hotel phone were unwilling to oblige him so a regular was flown in from London for the session, a surveillance source recalled.
Wishart became firm friends with McCormack after doing him a big favour. A criminal associate of the Commander was looking at a long prison sentence for beating up someone who Wishart knew. Words were had and the case dropped.
In late 2003, Wishart says he mentioned the possibility of robbing Johnson Matthey to McCormack. Between November and December, the Commander supplied a bag of guns, the Mercedes getaway car and insisted on meeting Fox’s inside man without disguising his identity.
However, in early January 2004 McCormack was nursing a claw like hand apparently injured on New Year’s Eve. He flagged to Wishart that he might not be match fit for the Johnson Matthey job.
Weeks later, the underworld was buzzing with news about an audacious heist at Heathrow Airport on 6 February.
A six-man team escaped with £1.75m in cash from Menzies World Cargo, if only for a while. The Finchley Flying Squad had been listening to the robbers’ phones for days and four of them were scooped up with bags of cash.
Detectives were convinced McCormack was one of the two that got away. But senior Flying Squad officers decided not to arrest him, said a well-placed source.
According to Wishart, shortly after the Menzies robbery, McCormack suggested a well-known associate could replace him on the Johnson Matthey job. The offer was discussed and rejected.
On March 27, Fox, Rayson and Wishart were arrested trying to getaway in the Mercedes McCormack had provided.
While waiting in prison for his trial, McCormack contacted Wishart through his lawyers and made an incredible suggestion.
He told Wishart to claim that he only did the gold bullion robbery in fear of his life and in order to pay back a debt to the Commander.
It says something about McCormack’s carefree attitude that he did not fear arrest for conspiracy to rob or perverting the course of justice.
Wishart agreed with the suggestion and put forward the false duress defence at his trial, which started in March 2005.
He told The Upsetter:
“As the trial loomed I had the opportunity to read Untouchables. I had by now started to suspect my loyalty to Chris McCormack may be misguided. Imagine the moment when I read that a senior cop said: “I wanted to investigate McCormack for the hand grenade attack on [armed robber turned supergrass] Hector Harvey but was stopped and never told why!” I had a deep sickening feeling that my mate was working for the police and had set me up.
I recalled in my mind the pressure he was applying to not only push this job forward but keep me part of it telling me he only wanted to work with me on it as I was solid. That he didn’t know the others and every time I expressed a reluctance he would talk me round.
Not long after and maybe a month before the trial I got word that Chris said I should blame him. That he put me up to it and he wanted me to say that. He also said I could say another well known criminal was with him in using duress. Whether he suddenly grew a conscience over what he did to me or not I am not sure. If you think it through the police must have sanctioned Chris offering this as otherwise they would have to nick him.”
McCormack was never tried as a co-conspirator.
Fox’s defence matched his early suspicions. He claimed that McCormack was an agent provocateur working with the police to set up the robbery. This defence put an obligation on the prosecution to disclose police information about McCormack or abandon the case because it would reveal him to be the informant.
In the end, prosecution lawyers and police went into a series of secret sessions with the judge, called Public Interest Immunity (PII) hearings, from which the defence are excluded.
The trial judge examined secret material from the Barnes Flying Squad’s operation, codenamed Rowlock, and from the National Crime Squad operation codenamed Rockingham.
A well-placed source said a tap on a phone box used by McCormack had captured him making an intriguing comment after the arrest of Wishart and the others. “I put three into this,” he said.
These five words suggested strongly that McCormack was a co-conspirator in the Johnson Matthey robbery. But in one PII hearing, a prosecutor assured the judge this was not the case. Consequently, the transcript of the phone tap and the sensitive material around it did not have to be disclosed.
Nevertheless, defence barristers had some success in damaging the credibility of the Flying Squad’s claim that it was a “best guess” that the Johnson Matthey depository was the target of the robbery.
It also didn’t help the prosecution when a senior Flying Squad officer claimed he hadn’t heard of McCormack until the defence mentioned him.
It was like an art dealer saying he hadn’t heard of Picasso. After all, McCormack’s name was all over the police surveillance logs and intelligence files.
The senior officer corrected his claim when challenged but some in the prosecution camp believed the judge was now “spooked”. They were right. The judge agreed with the defence argument that continuing the trial would amount to an abuse of process.
The main count on the indictment was subsequently reduced from robbery to theft, where the sentence was much lighter. The defendants knew this was a result given the evidence against them and grabbed at the chance to plead guilty.
In July 2005 Fox and Rayson got 7 years for the theft and guns. Wishart got six months less.
As this internal police document shows, the police were not happy and planned on reporting the judge to the director of public prosecutions.
A Deep Sense Of Unease
In his ruling the judge had made clear his concerns about the Flying Squad and prosecution.
“I am left with a deep sense of unease. There is an irresistible inference that all has not been revealed to me.”
At least one Flying Squad detective whole-heartedly agreed.
In his statement to the police watchdog, DC Dan Williams alleged that the Flying Squad Operation Rowlock was “corrupt”.
The NCS in Swanley knew about the Johnson Matthey robbery from phone taps and “were using a participating informant to incite the offence,” he said.
Williams identified Chris McCormack as that informant and said the NCS and Flying Squad had protected him from prosecution.
He also said it was “a blatant lie” for officers to swear on oath that they didn’t know Johnson Matthey’s depository was the target. Phone taps on Wishart, Fox, Rayson and the inside man had made that clear.
Williams thought McCormack should have been arrested for conspiracy to rob but said a senior officer told him to take no action, strongly hinting he was an informant.
Then there was this bombshell. Williams was the disclosure officer responsible under the Criminal Procedure & Investigations Act (CPIA) for ensuring all police documents relevant to the defence case were disclosed before the trial, especially if they undermined the prosecution case.
“It was clear that disclosure was not going to be conducted properly. When I questioned this … I was removed,” Williams said in his statement.
Asked to expand on this, he told The Upsetter:
“The guys were set up. The CPIA was just torn up and thrown in the bin. It was a corrupt operation from the National Crime Squad and I didn’t want to be a party to it when it was blatantly obvious. I had no sympathy with Kevin [Wishart] and the others. They were serious criminals. But what I wasn’t going to do is sacrifice my career and sacrifice myself for officers who weren’t doing what they should have done.
“What I did do during the trial was I refused. When it got to the stage where it was blatantly criminal I refused to sign the (disclosure) certificates.”
Williams alleges that a senior Flying Squad officer ordered him not to disclose evidence of the contact between Johnson Matthey and the police before the robbery. Williams claims he refused and was removed as disclosure officer. However, crucially, he said he told two members of the prosecution team – lawyers – what had happened and that if he was asked in the witness box he would reveal all.
“I had made my views very clear and the prosecution was aware of the stance I would take and likely result in the collapse of the entire prosecution,” his statement said.
After the Johnson Matthey trial ended with the convictions of the robbers, Williams detailed in his witness statement another run in with management at Barnes over a controversial Flying Squad operation codenamed Hurlock.
This involved the allegedly “unnecessary” fatal shooting of two armed robbers in 2007 in Hampshire. Williams claimed the inquest into the deaths was misled.
Solicitor Sarah McSherry represented the families of Mark Nunes and Andrew Markland at the inquest in 2011. She told The Upsetter:
“Allegations about the corruption of the police unit involved in the deaths of their loved ones are obviously of considerable concern, not least because no such evidence was before the inquest into their deaths.”
After seven years, Williams said he was “kicked off” the Barnes Flying Squad in 2011 and transferred to routine duties in Battersea and Wandsworth, south London.
There he started noticing similar problems where criminals who were informants were in effect being allowed to commit crime and escape prosecution. He said attempts to raise these issues internally were ignored so he sent a file to local Labour MP Sadiq Khan, a former criminal defence solicitor.
That, he said, is when he came to the attention of the Untouchables. In 2012 he said he was put on restricted duties while the anti-corruption squad looked at prosecuting him under the Official Secrets Act.
It wouldn’t have taken much to discover Williams’ use of prostitutes left him vulnerable to at least disciplinary action. The Untouchables mounted a covert operation against him that ultimately led to his arrest and suspension in 2014 and the collapse of his marriage.
“Their case is that I committed offences with prostitutes whilst a police officer. That isn’t against the law. It would only be against the law if I was acting as a police officer while doing it, whereas all the stuff I was doing was as a private individual. If I was a vice cop and I’d met these women through being a police officer then fair enough. But I didn’t. They didn’t know I was old bill at all. It doesn’t matter if you are on duty or not. I did it on duty and off duty. It’s whether it was in the course of your duty,” he told The Upsetter.
Williams was now fighting off criminal prosecution and disciplinary matters. In 2016, he launched an employment tribunal claim of victimisation for blowing the whistle on corruption he had witnessed since his time on the Flying Squad.
In December 2018 he passed his statement to the IOPC. But the watchdog allowed the Untouchables to take control and in January 2020 they found “no evidence” to support Williams.
Had the IOPC and Untouchables upheld the complaint it would have had a bearing on Williams’ whistleblowing defence.
In any event, around Christmas 2020 the trial judge Michael Grieve QC allowed Williams to put his whistleblowing defence in front of the jury when the trial started in May 2021.
What the police and its supposed watchdog had successfully suppressed was going to be aired in open court with Williams as the ringmaster asking Flying Squad detectives and prosecutors very awkward questions about an alleged cover up and potential miscarriages of justice.
Williams was going to make it as nasty as he could and in effect put policing serious crime on trial.
But before he could do that, and after discussions at the highest level, prosecutors threw in the towel on 8 March.
Kevin Wishart had got to hear about Williams from a mutual legal contact and made a complaint to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) which, with increasingly less resources, is supposed to examine possible miscarriages of justice.
It was very rare for serving police officers to give evidence about alleged corruption in their force. But after consulting with the Untouchables and the IOPC, the CCRC told Wishart on 29 September 2020 that while Williams’ statement was “fresh evidence” its content was either known at the time of the trial or had no bearing on the safety of his conviction.
Williams was willing to speak to the CCRC, which felt “it would not be reasonable to do so.” The word of the Untouchables and IOPC was enough, it seemed.
Wishart has now alerted the House of Commons home affairs select committee which is currently examining the effectiveness and independence of police regulation in the UK.
“We now have the whistle-blower statement so we now have our own participating informant so let’s see how that feels for them!”
Word From ‘The Commander’
Chris McCormack, it appears, has been monitoring events from afar.
Wishart had emerged from prison in 2007 convinced his former friend was the informant. So it was a surprise when the Commander got in touch soon after The Sunday Express published the first expose on the case in February 2020.
“Hello Kev,” McCormack emailed. “Saw your case in the paper. Looks like justice at last. Well done mate. Good luck with the case, these police are a disgrace. They’ll do anything to protect their conspiracy. Keep fighting, you are nearly there.”
And so it goes.