The Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation into complaints made against Detective Superintendent Stephen Fulcher has found a case to answer for gross misconduct for breaches of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act and for ignoring force orders.
Three separate matters were investigated by the IPCC. The first followed a complaint from John Godden that Detective Superintendent Fulcher’s actions led to the charge against Halliwell for the unlawful killing of his daughter Rebecca being dropped.
The second and third were matters referred to the IPCC concerning Detective Superintendent Fulcher’s release of information to the media and his contact with members of the media in connection with Operation Mayan.
IPCC Deputy Chair Rachel Cerfontyne said: “This is a difficult time for all concerned with this case and especially the families and friends of Sian and Becky, especially after all they have already had to endure. This investigation has been a highly unusual one, as the majority of facts, in particular in relation to Mr Godden’s complaint, are undisputed and already in the public domain.
“We will never know what may have happened if the PACE Codes had been followed. However, Detective Superintendent Fulcher’s actions were in deliberate breach of PACE and we find that he has a case to answer for gross misconduct. Also, Detective Superintendent Fulcher, despite no longer having responsibility for Operation Mayan, and against express orders, went ahead with meetings about the case with journalists from both the BBC and ITV. This behaviour is even more extraordinary when set in the context that the trial Judge had already considered whether force press conferences given by Detective Superintendent Fulcher were prejudicial to the case against Halliwell.
“We find that he has a case for gross misconduct for this as well and it will now be for Wiltshire Police to decide what action to take and I await their proposals.”
Sian O’callaghan Murder: How Taxi Driver’s Confession Was Secured
DS Steve Fulcher accused of using ’70s style of policing’ in ignoring rules on how Christopher Halliwell should be questioned
Steven Morris, theguardian.com, Monday 9 September 2013
Detective Superintendent Steve Fulcher was under huge pressure. He had just ordered the arrest of taxi driver Christopher Halliwell, his prime suspect in the kidnapping of Sian O’Callaghan in Swindon five days earlier.
But Halliwell was refusing to talk and Fulcher tried something desperate. He instructed Halliwell to be driven to an isolated hilltop for a one-to-one chat. Working on the premise that O’Callaghan could still be alive, Fulcher wanted one last chance to look Halliwell in the eye and demand to know where she was.
By his own admission, Fulcher ignored the law governing how suspects should be treated – there was no solicitor present and the suspect was not read his rights – but to some extent it worked. Halliwell led the officer to the young woman’s mutilated body.
What happened next was even more dramatic. Out of the blue, Halliwell guided Fulcher to another spot where the remains of a second woman, Becky Godden-Edwards, had been buried years before, and told the detective he had killed her.
In October last year Halliwell pleaded guilty to the murder of O’Callaghan and will serve a minimum of 25 years in prison.
But he did not face trial over the death of Godden-Edwards because a judge ruled that the potential evidence gleaned during the four hours the murderer and detective spent together was inadmissible.
During prolonged preliminary legal arguments in October, Fulcher was accused of ignoring important rights brought in to prevent miscarriages of justice and of having gone back to a “70s style of policing”.
As Halliwell was heading to prison for O’Callaghan’s murder, it emerged that Fulcher had been suspended and his actions were being investigated by the police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
The saga of the arrest, the unconventional interview and the discovery of the two bodies makes the Halliwell case one of the most unusual in recent times.
O’Callaghan, a 22-year-old administrator, vanished in the early hours of Saturday 19 March 2011 after leaving a nightclub in Swindon, Wiltshire. Her disappearance became a huge story, with thousands of people joining the search.
By 22 March, the police investigation was focused on father-of-three Halliwell, after CCTV footage seemed to show O’Callaghan getting into his taxi.
Operating on the premise that she could still be alive, Fulcher ordered Halliwell to be watched 24 hours a day; 12 surveillance vehicles tracked his every move. Fulcher let Halliwell “run”, hoping he would lead police to the missing woman.
“My fear was, she could be dead; I hoped she was alive,” Fulcher said during the legal argument about the case at Bristol crown court. “My duty was clear: to work to find and protect Sian if I could. It’s what any parent would have wanted a police officer to do for Sian.”
Fulcher increased the pressure on Halliwell with a number of cryptic press releases and only pounced on 24 March when the suspect was spotted buying an “overdose quantity” of pills. Two detectives carried out an “urgent” interview in a police car without a solicitor being present, which is lawful when it is thought any delay could lead to a victim’s death.
Halliwell refused to co-operate and demanded to see a lawyer. At this point Fulcher ordered his officers to take Halliwell not to the police station but to Barbury castle, an iron age fort on the outskirts of Swindon, where he would meet the suspect.
Fulcher explained later at the preliminary hearing that he had still been working on the basis that O’Callaghan could be alive and had wanted a one-to-one chat with Halliwell. The detective said he had wanted to “look him in the eye” and ask Halliwell to take him to O’Callaghan. He accepted he had put to one side the strictures of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (Pace), which spells out how suspects should be treated, including the need to tell them they have the right to remain silent.
Fulcher told the hearing “On the one hand, I was cognisant of Mr Halliwell’s rights. But my primary duty was to save Sian’s life. My view was, there was an equation to balance between Mr Halliwell’s right to silence and Sian O’Callaghan’s right to life. My view was that Sian’s right to life took a prior claim.”
So, without cautioning him, Fulcher asked Halliwell to do the “right thing”. He told him he would be “vilified” if he did not help. Halliwell told Fulcher: “You think I did it.” Fulcher replied: “I know you did it.” After a few minutes, Halliwell gave in and said: “Have you got a car? We’ll go.”
Fulcher said it had been a “rare moment in life” as they drove to a spot near the Uffington white horse, in Oxfordshire, where O’Callaghan’s body was found down a steep bank. She had been stabbed in the head, strangled, beaten and sexually assaulted.
The detective said he was about to order that Halliwell be taken to a police station when the suspect said: “You and me need to have a chat.” The pair sat down, smoked, and Halliwell asked: “Do you want another one?” Again, under the law, Fulcher should have cautioned Halliwell. But Fulcher said they had achieved a “rapport”, and reading Halliwell his rights might have made him stop speaking.
They got back into the car and Halliwell gave directions. Fulcher said during the legal argument that Halliwell said he had murdered a girl in about 2004. He had not known her, but had taken her from Swindon. The pair ended up in a 16-hectare (40-acre) field in Gloucestershire. Halliwell paced out the spot where he said he had buried the body, the pretrial legal argument hearing was told. A body later identified as that of Becky Godden-Edwards was found. She had run away from home some nine years before.
Halliwell was taken to a police station and Fulcher announced on live television that a 47-year-old man had been arrested for kidnap and two murders. “The location of two bodies has been identified to me by this individual,” Fulcher said.
But once he had access to a lawyer, Halliwell clammed up. Fulcher told the preliminary hearing it seemed “utterly ridiculous” that a person who had taken him to two bodies could find some “loophole that would get him away from the fact that he is a multiple murderer”.
Halliwell’s barrister, Richard Latham QC, was hugely critical of Fulcher’s tactics. Describing the situation as “unique”, Latham said Fulcher had shown an “amazing contempt of all the recognised codes, rules and sub judice principles”.
The lawyer said the Pace rules were not a “loophole” but a “fundamental right”, suggesting Fulcher had “gone back to the 70s” style of policing. Mrs Justice Cox, who heard the legal arguments, agreed the details gleaned in the interview could not be admitted as evidence in court.
She called Fulcher’s actions “wholesale and irrefutable breaches of Pace”. It had been a “deliberate decision” by Fulcher to carry out “significant and substantial” breaches of the code, she said.
It meant Halliwell could not face trial over Godden-Edwards’ death because there was no other evidence apart from what had happened between the suspect and detective. The police did have other evidence linking Halliwell to O’Callaghan’s murder, including forensics and CCTV footage.
But Latham argued that his client should not even face court over O’Callaghan’s death, claiming he could not have a fair trial because Fulcher had announced to the media that the suspect had taken him to two bodies.
He also alleged that Fulcher had leaked other information to journalists, including the fact that Halliwell had been seen burning something after O’Callaghan’s disappearance, and even his words when he was arrested: “How did you catch me? Was it the gamekeeper?”
The judge ruled that Halliwell would face a fair trial over O’Callaghan’s death if the jury was carefully directed.
In the end, Halliwell admitted murdering O’Callaghan and was given the lengthy prison sentence, but could have been serving a whole-life term had he been convicted of abducting and murdering a second young woman.
The attorney general, Dominic Grieve, referred the sentencing to the court of appeal but three judges decided the 25-year tariff was not unduly lenient.
Fulcher had support from within his own force. At the preliminary hearing, the chief constable of Wiltshire police, Patrick Geenty, said his officer had been brave and that he hoped he would have done the same thing.
Most importantly, perhaps, the mother of Becky Godden-Edwards praised him for sparing them from the limbo of never knowing what happened to the young woman.
Karen Edwards summed it up: “Without him, I wouldn’t know if Becky was still alive or dead. I think he’s a brilliant officer who didn’t deserve reprimanding. He was doing the right thing as well as his duty.”