Discovery of "missing" documents in biggest police corruption case - cock up or conspiracy?
When Britain's biggest police corruption trial collapsed last month amid revelations that officers investigating their colleagues might have shredded evidence, the reverberations were shocking enough.
But this week's announcement that the "missing" four files of evidence whose absence brought down the case, had miraculously been found again in their original boxes and in the possession of South Wales police, takes the fiasco a stage further.
This had been a chance for the criminal justice system to prove it could investigate its own failings and make amends for the wrongful conviction of three men in 1990 for the murder of Lynette White.
The investigation and prosecution of eight police officers and two civilians for allegedly fitting up three innocent men, the Cardiff Three, had been carried out under the supervision of the Independent Police Complaints commission, by a dedicated team of police officers from the South Wales force and lawyers.
It was the biggest trial of serving and former police officers in Britain and possibly Europe and it was a chance to prove that police officers can investigate their own and for the IPCC to show it could robustly prosecute alleged police corruption. Much hung on the trial running its course and a jury making its decision.
The most senior officer in the dock was a superintendent when he retired and two others were chief inspectors. They were all charged with conspiring to pervert the course of justice, in that they "moulded, manipulated, influenced and fabricated evidence" against White's boyfriend, Stephen Miller, and four other men ? Yusef Abdullahi, Tony Paris and cousins Ronnie and John Actie.
Miller, Abdullahi and Paris were found guilty in November 1990 of the killing while the Acties were acquitted. The three convicted men were freed on appeal in 1992 and in 2003, 15 years after the killing, another man - Jeffrey Gafoor - was jailed for White's murder.
But in December the case against the police officers, who had allegedly fitted up the Cardiff three, collapsed after the judge said it had become "irredeemably unfair", and ordered not guilty verdicts over concerns about disclosure of evidence. Central to the issue was the apparent shredding of four files of evidence.
The court was told that the files may have been shredded on the orders of the senior investigating officer. He, apparently, was never asked about this.
Then on Thursday the IPCC revealed that during its inquiry into the disclosure issues - its investigators had found the "missing" files, in their original boxes within South Wales police.
The Director of Public prosecutions has now ordered an investigation by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary into the way the case was handled by prosecutors. The IPCC inquiry into what went on, also continues. Although this in itself raises questions as the IPCC were supervising the investigation throughout.
It is not the first time a historic, complex and hugely important case involving alleged police corruption, has collapsed over disclosure issues. The murder trial of three men for the killing of the private detective Daniel Morgan collapsed on just such an issue.
Questions are now being raised about what led to this shambolic state of affairs in the Cardiff three corruption case. Was it cock up or conspiracy? Certainly the police who were tasked with investigating their own colleagues and former colleagues were under extreme pressure. One officer was attacked in a pub, another received death threats. The whole operation was run from an RAF building well away from the police headquarters.
There had been meticulous planning by the CPS, the IPCC and the police in preparation for the trial yet these documents went "missing", were assumed to have been shredded but were suddenly found - by which time it was too late - the case had collapsed and along with it any chance of the jury pronouncing its verdict.
The questions have been raised, and various agencies are seeking the answers. But whatever happens the chances of any police officers being taken back to the dock for a new corruption trial are virtually non existent.