Police botch murder probe so badly new suspect can’t be prosecuted nearly 20 years on

News

A police force has wasted 18 months reexamining a murder case which collapsed due to their own failings.

Now Staffordshire Police has discovered the CPS can’t press charges because of its previous blunders.

The force launched a re-investigation into the death of Kevin Nunes after their botched enquiry led to the murder convictions of five men being quashed.

The promising 20-year-old footballer, who had been on the books of Tottenham Hotspur, was found dead in a country lane in Pattingham, Staffordshire, on September 19, 2002.

He had been savagely beaten and shot five times in the “execution-style” gangland murder.

Five suspects were jailed for a total of 135 years.

But they were cleared by the Court of
Appeal after a damning report exposed a catalogue of errors by the force.

The force paid out £200,000 in an out-of-court settlement to two of the suspects, Levi Walker and Antonio Christie, after they sued the force.

A report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission at the time also outlined failings by detectives that led to the murder convictions.

However, not one officer was disciplined following the report, which is believed to have cost taxpayers around £7 million.

The force has now faced further pitfalls after officers identified a new suspect in the case – but he cannot be prosecuted due to the previous errors.

Detectives with no links to the original investigation, carried out a “robust and thorough” re-investigation of the case, which involved reviewed more than 5,000 documents.

They also looked again at forensic evidence and re-submitted exhibits for examination using up-to-date scientific techniques.

Detectives identified a suspect in the investigation and a file of evidence was submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for consideration.

But the CPS has concluded it’s not possible to pursue a prosecution due to failings from the original investigation which mean it would be an abuse of the legal process to do so.

Senior detectives from the force, together with CPS representatives, today met with Mr Nunes’ family to update them.

Chief Constable Gareth Morgan said: “I am frustrated and disappointed that we are unable to bring justice to Kevin Nunes and his family.

“The decision I made to re-investigate the original inquiry was a significant one for his family, the wider community and the force, but absolutely the right one.

“Although new lines of enquiry were identified around a suspect, the CPS has concluded that it is not possible to pursue a prosecution against this suspect due to failings from the original investigation.

“I have already apologised for the significant police failings during the original investigation into the murder of Kevin Nunes in 2002 and it is extremely frustrating that it these failings that have led to the CPS’s decision.

“Kevin’s family have been told about this decision today by the CPS and the detectives who have led the re-investigation.

“Once again I want to say to Kevin’s family how sorry I am that we have still not been able to bring justice for his death.

“The case remains open and will be subject to regular reviews to identify any new lines of enquiry.”

Walker and Christie were convicted along with Owen Crooks, Adam Joof and Michael Osbourne at Leicester Crown Court in 2008 before being cleared in March 2012.

After the trial it emerged concerns over the credibility of the key prosecution witness Simeon Taylor were not disclosed to the defence.

Mr Taylor claimed to have seen the killing – having driven the car which took Mr Nunes to his death.

But a whistleblower revealed a detective handling the key witness was involved in an “intimate” affair with a disclosure officer.

Complaints made by Mr Taylor concerning his treatment while in witness protection were also “put on ice.”

And a senior detective believed there was an “at any cost” culture within Staffordshire Police to ensure he gave evidence in the case.

According to the BBC, Nunes, who was from Wolverhampton and played football for Stafford Rangers, was due to become a father at the time he died.