Met police deny “unhealthy relationship”

Complaint made against senior investigator in Cayman

Officials withMetropolitan Police have said there is insufficient evidence to support claims that information was improperly leaked to a local news organisation by officers with a special police team investigating alleged misconduct within the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.

The complaint, according to a 7 November letter sent to Scotland Yard, indicated that statements made to police officers here in Cayman by a Crown witness were given to the publisher of the Cayman Net News.

Former Net News journalist John Evans said statements he gave to Senior Investigating Officer Martin Bridger’s team were made at the early stages of an investigation of alleged corruption within the Cayman Islands police.

“I was encouraged to provide this information in connection with what I understood was an investigation into corruption within the RCIPS and the (alleged) unlawful relationship between (newspaper publisher) Mr. (Desmond) Seales and Deputy Police Commissioner (Anthony) Ennis,” Mr. Evans wrote in his complaint. “This material was obtained under false pretences and misused.”

“This material was illegally ‘leaked’ to Cayman Net News by [Mr. Bridger’s] team who then collaborated with the publication in a deliberate attempt to discredit me as a Crown witness,” his statement continued. “This is yet another example of the ‘unhealthy’ relationship between the SIO (Mr. Bridger) and the publisher of Cayman Net News.”

UK Met investigators later said Mr. Seales and Mr. Ennis had committed no offence, and that they had found no evidence the two men had exchanged confidential police information as was alleged by former Net News corporate affairs manager Lyndon Martin.

In a reply to Mr. Evans’ complaint, UK Met Detective Superintendent Dean Haydon wrote that Mr. Evans’ involvement in the investigation was well known to the public following the revelation of two court rulings. The first being a decision by Chief Justice Anthony Smellie to deny search warrants to UK Met officers here in Cayman; the second was a ruling by a visiting judge which said investigators had improperly and illegally obtained warrants to search the home and office of Grand Court Justice Alexander Henderson.

Both rulings provided details of Mr. Evans’ previous statements to investigators.

“There is insufficient evidence to support your contention that (Mr. Bridger’s) team ‘leaked’ any information to the press, as it would have been obvious to anyone who attended court during the hearing and judgment what your role and involvement in the matter was,” Mr. Haydon wrote in response to Mr. Evans’ complaint. “There is no evidence that the team attempted to discredit you as a Crown witness and they would, in fact, have nothing to gain and everything to lose if they did so.”

In late September, Mr. Bridger said in a written statement that he was “insulted” by the suggestion that he had an inappropriate relationship with Mr. Seales.

“Mr. Seales and Mr. Ennis are victims of an offence that is still under investigation,” Mr. Bridger wrote in response to Caymanian Compass questions submitted on 29 September. “As such, I will continue to treat them as I would any other victim.”

Complaints about police officials improperly giving information to Mr. Seales were what led to the initial investigation by RCIPS officers in the summer of last year. Those claims culminated in a search of the publisher’s office on 3 September, 2007 by Mr. Evans, who was still working with Net News at the time. Court documents have revealed that at least two top-ranking RCIPS officials had knowledge of, and even asked Mr. Evans to perform that search.

However, neither of those men, nor Mr. Evans, has been charged with any crimes or even arrested. Mr. Bridger has previously said he has no intention of pursuing a criminal case against Mr. Evans, though he is still investigating former RCIPS Commissioner Stuart Kernohan and Police Chief Superintendent John Jones. Mr. Jones is on paid leave from the police service.

Mr. Evans had complained publicly about “pressure” that he said was being applied to Mr. Bridger’s team to arrest him and charge him with a crime. Those complaints came prior to the Caymanian Compass’ first report detailing the contents of Chief Justice Smellie’s search warrant judgment on 3 October.

In an open letter on 1 October, Mr. Evans also expressed concern about what he called “misuse of confidential information” held by Mr. Bridger’s team. He has refused to return to Cayman and has said he would only participate in further investigations involving Mr. Bridger’s team if those were conducted in the UK.

More complaints

Members of the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly continued their verbal assault on Mr. Bridger and the on-going investigation of the RCIPS during debate on the annual pre-budget Strategic Policy Statement Monday.

Works and Infrastructure Minister Arden McLean said he believed money being spent on the probe would be better used in other areas such as education. Plans to build two new high schools on Grand Cayman were shelved last week due to budget constraints.

“There is a need to look objectively…at this investigation that continues to drain the coffers of this country,” Mr. McLean said. “I suspect it is going to be over $5 million by the time this investigation is finished. I would not be surprised if it is closer to $10 million.”

Education Minister Alden McLaughlin estimated the investigation costs at around $4 million last month but had no supporting documents to prove that claim.

Budget records show $1.67 million was spent on the investigation in the last fiscal year, but those provided no indication of what has been paid since 1 July. The governor’s office has refused numerous requests to provide a detailed break down of what is being spent for the special police team’s work.

Norma Conolly contributed to this story.