Detective Sergeant faces allegation of 'manipulating' witness statement in murder investigation

A general view of the Nottinghamshire Police headquarters in Sherwood Lodge Drive, Arnold, Nottingham.
-Credit: (Image: Joseph Raynor/ Nottingham Post)

A Detective Sergeant with more than 20 years of experience has been accused of instructing a junior officer to "manipulate" the statement of a significant witness during a murder investigation. A misconduct hearing into the actions of Detective Sergeant Imran Rafiq opened at Nottinghamshire Police Headquarters, Sherwood Drive today (Monday, July 8).

The hearing was opened by a panel of three individuals chaired by Oliver Thorne, with Chief Superintendent Claire Rukas and independent Colin Braziel also serving on the panel. The hearing is due to take place over five days, and will determine whether DS Rafiq's actions meet the criteria of misconduct.

Mr Rafiq has denied all of the allegations against him and remains suspended from the force, pending the outcome of the hearing. It is alleged that whilst working in the East Midlands Special Operations Unit, DS Rafiq instructed a graduate officer, referred to as Miss A, to "manipulate" the statement from a significant witness.

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On January 13, 2022, the pair went to interview the daughter of Lawrence Bierton, at her workplace in Worksop regarding the murder of Pauline Quinn. Mr Bierton was jailed for life on Wednesday, December 20, 2023, for the 72-year-old's murder.

This was the "first-ever" statement taken by Miss A, and so she carefully wrote it in the Word template as instructed. However, she struggled to connect the laptop to the stylus so the witness could sign it, described as a "glitch."

DS Rafiq opened a new template, connected the stylus, and then copy and pasted the statement for the witness to sign. However, after this statement was emailed to Detective Constable Kim Priestley, she called the duo and flagged that the statement ended with the word 'and'

The duo returned to the Radford Road Police Station shortly after 6.45pm and confirmed the words were missing. It was heard that they should have arranged to go back to Worksop and complete the interview again, but it was alleged that DS Rafiq and another officer, PC Warburton, joked that Miss A should fill in the words but not tell anyone.

Miss A stated: "Her signature was at the very last word and it was in the way, I couldn't then type to fill anything in. I said the signature was in the way, so he said 'can you just drag it down'."

Although she felt it was wrong, Miss A said she did it because "my sergeant told me to." After emailing the second version, he later received a phone call from DC Priestly and left the room. It was heard that he told her that the missing words were found when they pressed the undo button, which was allegedly a lie.

Upon re-entering, Miss A said: "He said words to the effect of 'scrap that' let's go back and take it properly" but she never received the action to go back and do it again. Over the weekend, Miss A, described as "bright" and "capable", found herself "frazzled" by the incident and asked to speak to someone about it.

The matter was brought to the attention of Steve Wragg, who at the time was a Detective Inspector on the force. The former DI, spoke to Miss A around January 23, 2022, and told her that it was not right, and that he could either give DS Rafiq "a b*********" or take it further, but said "it's up to you."

Miss A said she felt "really disgusted and disappointed to work for Nottinghamshire Police." She handed in her notice on August 2, 2022, and during an exit interview shared her concerns about the incident. She initially stayed in the force, moving to another unit before leaving a year later.

Barrister John Beggs stated the DI had "a duty" to report any improper conduct. He described his actions as "appalling." Miss A was said to be left "confused and angry" by the situation, especially when told not to ask DS Rafiq for future advice.

On February 6, 2022, DS Rafiq allegedly deleted the emails with the original and altered witness statements. On April 7, 2022, DS Rafiq was said to have updated an action on the force's system to say no further action regarding the witness statement, just days after Mr Bierton pleaded guilty to murder, which he later rescinded.

Mr Beggs stated: "He covered it up not once, but twice" in the hopes "that this matter would never have come to light." He might have got away with it, as when someone pleads guilty there is a tendency to relax." It was argued during the panel by Kevin Baumber, the solicitor for DS Rafiq, that the idea of filling in the sentence was suggested by PC Warburton, and that it was "a joke." He asked her if perhaps she just "didn't get the joke" due to her seriousness.

To which Miss A stated: "It was not a joke, neither of the officers were smiling or laughing or saying it in jest. I'm serious when it matters, I know my values but I can also have a laugh and I know when something is a joke and when it is not."

It was also alleged that the Detective Sergeant made a misogynistic comment about Clair Ablewhite, who was a murder victim. In a discussion with herself and male colleagues, Miss A claims there was a discussion around the victim's relationships, use of dating apps, and then he allegedly told her "Let this be a life lesson to you, don't go sleeping around."

Miss A explained: "My internal reaction was disgusted that that was even a factor that changed anything about those awful circumstances." She described the comment as "inappropriate" and the office as "sexist, misogynistic, derogatory towards people in the office, towards victims of crimes, it made me feel extremely alone."

This hearing is still ongoing and further evidence and witness statements will be heard over the next few days.