Greater Manchester Police detective inspector David Smith was accused of botching the Harold Shipman investigation and then lying to cover it up.
An inquiry was told that Smith had not called for post mortem examinations and toxicology tests on two victims and denied that GP Linda Roberts, who had previously voiced concerns, had told him bodies were available for testing.
As a result, Shipman was able to work for an extra five months.
Dame Janet Smith, the High Court judge who chaired the inquiry that began in February 2001, concluded that three of Shipman’s victims could ‘probably have been saved if the investigation was properly conducted and supervised”.
Smith, who Dame Janet Smith branded a ‘liar’was suspended from his position while an inquiry was held into his conduct.
During his suspension he earned his full £100,000 salary and returned to the force in an administrative role. After the Crown Prosecution Service said last March that there had been ‘insufficient evidence’to charge him, Smith was told that he would face no disciplinary action due to the time that had elapsed. The Independent Police Commission said however that its investigation had shown there was evidence that Smith had breached rules regarding honesty, integrity and performance duties. He was ‘formally advised’about his conduct by GMP.
In 2002, along with two other detectives, Smith came under criticism after the collapse of the trial of six men accused of murdering a man who was forced to drink petrol and burned alive.
Smith retired last year but the Manchester Evening News discovered that he was recruited by GMP as a civilian expert the following day.
Senior reporter at the MEN Neal Keeling said: ‘When I was told that Smith had been given this position I didn’t believe it, but nevertheless I checked it out.”
Keeling called the force’s press office and was given an indication it was true. Further calls to contacts suggested that not only was it true but that the Chief Constable of GMP, Michael Todd, had not known and was ‘livid”.
‘We then knew we were on to something big,’said Keeling. ‘I was officially told that the whole situation was being reviewed and appropriate action would be taken. It appears that the officer in charge of the unit had been delegated power to appoint who he wanted. What made it an even bigger story was the nature of the job Smith had been given. His tasks had included reviewing unsolved murder cases.
‘The story had to be written very carefully because Smith was never subjected to any criminal charges and was never disciplined.
‘On my way home I got a call from GMP to let me know that his contract had not been renewed, ie. he’d been sacked.
‘It was a classic, impeccable contact who gave me the story. It’s just old-fashioned journalism. We are in an age where we have fantastic digital technology, but you still need the basics; you need contacts who have the knowledge and the balls to tip you off.”