Reinvestigation into the death of Kester David completed
Detectives have completed their reinvestigation into the death of Kester David, whose badly burnt body was found under a railway bridge in 2010.
They have concluded there is no evidence or information that a third party was involved in his death. Mr David’s family have been informed.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe met Mr David’s family on Thursday, 7 January to apologise for distress they suffered during the initial investigation period immediately following his death as well as shortcomings in that initial investigation.
Mr David was found beneath the bridge in Broomfield Lane, Palmers Green N13 at 11:00hrs on Wednesday, 7 July 2010.
It is thought he died in the early hours of that day. A post-mortem examination gave the cause of death as burns and inhalation of fumes.
Mr David’s death was initially investigated by officers at Enfield Borough who concluded his death was non-suspicious.
An inquest took place at Barnet Coroner’s Court on 31 January 2011 and recorded an open verdict.
Following concerns from Mr David’s family, two internal reviews into the investigation were carried out by senior officers from Enfield borough, independent of the original investigation, in September 2011 and January 2012.
Ongoing concerns from Mr David’s family prompted the decision to reopen the case.
In April 2012, the Metropolitan Police (Met) announced it would launch a fresh investigation into Mr David’s death on the basis that it remained unexplained.
Operation Harworth was set up by officers from the Homicide and Major Crime Command to establish the facts surrounding Mr David’s death.
After a month the investigation was independently reviewed by another police force which made a number of recommendations.
All these recommendations were accepted and incorporated into the investigation.
Detective Chief Inspector Noel McHugh, the senior investigating officer, said: “We have pain stakingly identified and followed through every line of enquiry we can. We have remained in close contact with Mr David’s family and solicitors throughout, listening to their concerns and directly following up matters they felt remained unexplained or may have had a bearing on Mr David’s death.
“Not all questions have been answered but I believe we have taken all available lines of enquiry as far as is possible. We have taken 334 statements, generated and considered 1,536 documents and raised 1,177 actions for my investigation team to deal with.
“I have found no credible intelligence or evidence that would support the hypothesis that Kester was murdered.
“Kester was a hard-working, well-respected individual in his local community and we recognise how enormously difficult this time has been for his family. I hope they can find some closure from the conclusion of this reinvestigation.”
No arrests have ever been made in connection with Mr David’s death.
During the course of the reinvestigation a number of appeals were made, to local and national media and on BBC Crimewatch.
The night before Mr David was found, just after 21:00hrs, he was spotted on CCTV entering Texaco Service Station, Lordship Lane, where he purchased petrol in a jerry can.
Twenty minutes later he returned in his white Ford Transit van and put fuel in it, but the van broke down.
The RAC breakdown service attended and fixed the van.
About four hours later, at 03:23hrs on Wednesday, 7 July, a black man was seen on CCTV entering the forecourt of the same Texaco and buying petrol in a jerry can.
At 03.55hrs a man wearing the same clothing as the man at 03:23hrs and carrying a jerry can was seen walking north along Green Lanes, toward Bloomfield Lane.
Experts have studied the footage and said there is a “moderate to strong” possibility this was Mr David on each occasion.
At about 02:30hrs on Wednesday, 7 July 2010, two men were seen in an alleyway near Maple Leaf Court, on the other side of the railway line to where Mr David was found.
One of the men appeared to be squeezing through a fence (not the railway fence) into the alleyway that runs at the side of Maple Leaf Court.
Both men then walked to the right behind a red brick building.
In order to reach where Mr David was found, they would have then had to mount anti-climb fencing next to the railway line, cross the line and tackle another anti-climb fence.
These men have not been traced but significant enquiries have been carried out and officers are as confident as they can be they are not linked to Mr David’s death.
Two men were seen walking across Morrisons’ car park, close to the scene, at 03:45hrs that day. They walked towards the far corner where there were charity recycling bins.
There was also an anti-climb fence separating Morrisons’ car park from Travis Perkins’ yard next door with large spikes on top.
Even if the men had managed to climb the fence, they could only have accessed Travis Perkins’ yard as the railway arch where Mr David was found was further separated by a padlocked gate encased by more anti-climb fencing. Motion-activated CCTV did not activate.
The only way to access the railway arch would have been to climb down from the bridge above, a drop of more than three-and-a-half metres.
It would have been extremely difficult for someone to have forced Mr David to climb down against his will and officers have found no evidence anyone did so nor any reason why they would wish to.
It would have been even more difficult for anyone to climb back up onto the bridge afterwards.
These two men may be the same men seen at 02:30hrs.
They have not been traced but significant enquiries have been carried out and officers are as confident as they can be they are not linked to Mr David’s death.
Officers were keen to trace Mr David’s missing Blackberry Curve 8520 mobile phone.
It was used, i.e. at least switched on, on 14 and 15 July 2010 in the general vicinity of Wood Green shopping centre and on 22 July around the area of Whittington Hospital.
It would have been locked so no calls could be made. It has not been used since. The phone remains outstanding despite extensive enquiries.
Two days before Mr David’s death, a relative called his BlackBerry. A man who wasn’t Mr David answered the phone.
This person has not been identified despite extensive enquiries.
Officers were anxious to trace the author of an email sent to police.
Two weeks after Mr David’s death, Enfield Safer Neighbourhoods team received an email from a ‘Sharon Clarke’, who appeared to have known Mr David well.
Sharon claimed to know who was responsible for his death.
Despite extensive enquiries she has not been traced.
The media appeals issued during the course of the reinvestigation generated just four calls – none of the information provided has taken the inquiry forward.
Mr David was born in Grenada and turned 53 the day before his death. He lived in Russell Avenue, Wood Green, N22 and was a part-time bus driver with Arriva working from the Wood Green depot. He was of previous good character with no links to criminality.
During the course of the reinvestigation there was speculation Mr David was a police informant – in accordance with National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) guidelines this can be neither confirmed nor denied publicly but all concerns that the family have raised have been thoroughly investigated and they have been kept fully informed.
The evidence gathered during the course of the reinvestigation was presented to the Met Commander for the Homicide and Major Crime Command and Independent Advisory Group members before the decision was taken that the inquiry was complete and there were no further matters to follow up.
The senior coroner for north London has considered the reinvestigation report and has stated that the open verdict recorded at the original inquest should stand.
Anyone with new information about Mr David’s death can still call the incident room on 020 8785 8099 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
The two internal reviews identified errors in the initial investigation but none that would have altered the outcome of the inquiry. The reviews also found no evidence of racism.
Following these reviews, Mr David’s family made a formal complaint in April 2011.
The Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards investigated the matters raised in the complaint.
Misconduct notices were served against three officers involved in the original investigation – a Detective Inspector (DI), a Detective Sergeant (DS) and a Detective Constable (DC) – and some aspects of the complaint were upheld.
The findings were appealed by Mr David’s family and the matter considered by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).
The subsequent IPCC report upheld some further elements of the complaint, specifically around aspects of the original investigation by the DI and DS. Management action was recommended but both officers had retired.
There was no case to answer about complaints against the DC, who remains within the Met.
The IPCC report made further recommendations that the Met should apologise to Mr David’s family for any distress they suffered during the initial investigation period and that the Met make it standard practice to inform a complainant if the officer subject of a complaint retires.
Of note is that changes to police regulations mean an officer facing potential gross misconduct proceedings is now prohibited from retiring or resigning.
The IPCC did not find the original investigation flawed due to Mr David’s ethnicity or family.
As a result of the Met’s initial handling of Mr David’s death and similar cases, the Met has changed the way it works.
In any similar set of circumstances, cases where someone has died as a result of a fire are now investigated by the Homicide and Major Crime Command from the outset.
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