In the event of a sudden and expected death such as a road crash it is customary for the senior investigating officer to appoint a trained Police Family Liaison Officer (FLO). One of his duties is to smooth the interaction between Police and family to the benefit of both. When explained thus, most families agree to cooperate. What is not explained is that the FLO is part of the investigating team and his or her first priority is to gather intelligence.
This system seemed to work well when one examines the work of the FLO in the Sharon Matthews case in 2008 when the embedded FLO was partly responsible for the arrest and conviction of the mother Karen .
I may have some reservations about this way of operating but the FLO in Raymond’s case went far beyond his powers and left himself open to a disciplinary charge or even a possible prison sentence.
The appointed FLO was Police Constable Mark Cully of Antrim Police station. His first task was to take three of us to identify the remains of Raymond in the morgue in Belfast. He appeared pleasant and helpful.
When I agreed to look into this crash at the outset, I told the family that I would keep Raymond’s wife Maud up to date on everything I was doing. I think it helped her to know that something was being done to find the truth. PC Cully met with her over a period of a few years and the topic of conversation always included an update of how my investigation was going. Eventually, I decided that it would be more productive if Maud stayed away from such conversations with any police officer although I didn’t ask her to break all ties with PC Cully. Remember, this FLO had been in place now for five or six years and I came to the reasonable conclusion that the updates given to him by Maud, however well-intentioned, were invariably reported back to those connected with the case. Indeed , it became clear to me that the meetings initiated by PC Cully seemed to coincide with some new initiative taken by me to resolve the problems surrounding the crash.
A Case at the High Court was initiated by me as the plaintiff ( on behalf of Maud under the terms of Letters of Administration) in a claim against Carson as the defendant. It was scheduled to be heard on 19th January 2009. Maud would be called as a witness along with a number of police officers and Forensics when their evidence would be tested either by our legal team or in defence of Carson’s case.
In August 2008, PC John Boyd approached and asked if she would help him find him some children who would like to take part in a football tournament on 23 August. Maud agreed to this somewhat strange request. The date was later moved to 4th October 2008.
On 30th September 2008, some three months before the High Court case,PC Cully called to her home apparently to tell her that the match was again cancelled until 8th November.
This is how Maud described what was said next.
“I asked him did he know my husband’s court case was still going on and he replied was it. I told him I was very stressed on tablets and off work. This is not what I wanted meaning it should not have come to this. PSNI Cully said he understands why Stanley was doing this for the family. Then he said to me I have a say in this too. PSNI Cully told me I should sit down and have a long think. I need closure or risk putting myself in bad health and again told me I have a say in this.
I only brought the subject up with PSNI Cully as I felt he should not have been at my door as he was the family liaison officer at the time of my husband’s death.”
When Maud told me of this encounter after PC Cully left, she said that he had asked her at least four times to think what the Court case might do to her health.
This was a clear case of interfering with a witness and attempting to pervert the course of Justice. I have little doubt he was told to visit Maud by a higher authority and that he would say, if asked, that he was only obeying orders. Sadly for him that defence was ruled out after the Nuremberg Trials.
If it was the intention of someone senior in the Police to use the FLO as an instrument to stop the High Court case and all of its implications should the Police and Forensic officers be required to give evidence under oath, then that particular tactic failed.
Ten days before the case was due to be heard our key witness, a professional accident investigator called Michael McLoughlin changed his statement on the cause of the crash to fall in line with the false Forensic Report and thus Police Report..
He did so for the most spurious of reasons but kindly offered to return his consultancy fee. If he thought he was right why would he do so ?
You might wonder, as I did, if some other pressure may have been brought to bear on him to change his conclusions. This will be dealt with in much more detail in a later post.
The Police were told that Maud and the family wanted no further contact with PC Cully as FLO.
By whatever means the Police would have been delighted that their corrupt officers would not have to give evidence under oath. Later, with the help of the Chief Coroner, they would not be challenged in his court either about their false evidence. They never appeared !
I don’t imagine that PC Cully has much to worry about. It is my experience that the PSNI and the rest of the Justice System will wrap its protective arms around him.
In the next post, I will tell you what HM Inspector of Constabulary Northern Region and Northern Ireland said in his Report submitted to the Houses of Parliament in 2008 about the PSNI handling of this case nand others. Given that his Report was written without bias and with integrity, you could probably guess his conclusions without me telling you.