Independent panel to decide cop’s case
10:10am Friday 13th September 2013 in Latest News
THE DETECTIVE who led the Sian O’Callaghan murder investigation will face a panel of senior officers from outside the county to determine whether he keeps his job.
A report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission released on Monday found that Wiltshire Police Detective Superintendent Steve Fulcher had two cases to answer for gross misconduct relating to his actions during Operation Mayan in early 2011.
His actions while questioning Chris Halliwell, who was jailed for life for murdering Sian, led to vital evidence being ruled inadmissible and the charge against the mini-cab driver for murdering Becky Godden-Edwards being withdrawn.
Wiltshire Police had 15 days in which to respond to recommendations that he should face a conduct hearing, and last night they confirmed a panel of senior officers from external forces is being brought together to ensure a fair process.
A spokesman for Wiltshire Police said: “We have reviewed the IPCC’s report and its recommendations. As a result, Wiltshire Police has taken the decision that Det Supt Steve Fulcher will be required to attend a formal conduct hearing.
“This is a complex and emotive matter that involves a number of parties. We believe that it is important that this should be dealt with through the right process, fairly, independently and in an open and transparent manner.
“We are currently in the process of arranging the conduct hearing with an independent panel of senior officers from other forces so that due process can continue.
“Wiltshire Police are continuing to offer welfare support to D/Supt Fulcher throughout this on-going process.”
Det Supt Fulcher took charge of the investigation after Sian, 22, disappeared after leaving Suju on March 19, 2011 and by March 24 he had identified Halliwell and arrested the 48-year-old.
But the officer then decided to divert Halliwell to Barbury Castle, where he questioned him without cautioning him and was then taken to Sian’s body and later that of Becky.
Becky was last seen alive more than eight years ago and her family thought she was living in the Bristol area, but police broke the news of her death to her family on what would have been her 29th birthday – April 4, 2011.
The IPCC report found he had a case to answer for gross misconduct in relation to breaches of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act by not cautioning Halliwell and not taking him straight to a police station to give him access to a lawyer.
The second charge of gross misconduct relates to Det Supt Fulcher’s handling of the media during the case, including a press conference where he released information that had the potential to prejudice Halliwell’s trial as well as meeting journalists from the BBC and ITV when he was warned not to do so by police staff.
Becky’s mum Karen Edwards, who is campaigning to change PACE in light of the case, said she hoped the detective was allowed to keep his job.
The 52-year-old said: “I’ve written a letter to the chief constable about this and I hope they do not sack him. What he is going through now just isn’t fair.”
Meanwhile, John Godden, Becky’s father and the person who made the first complaint regarding Det Supt Fulcher, said he welcomed the disciplinary action and the IPCC report.
“It should never have come to this,” he said.
The Adver has started an online poll asking whether readers believe Det Supt Fulcher’s actions were in the right. Since it launched at 4pm yesterday the yes votes stood at 88 per cent (199 votes) and no votes made up 12 per cent (26 votes).
To vote, visit www.swindon advertiser.co.uk. The ballot is open until 5pm today.