Vital DNA samples and clothing taken from a woman after she reported being raped at a New Year’s lock-in were lost by the Metropolitan police.
Detectives failed to video the woman’s first account of the incident at a bar or take any notes, while footage of the scene and the accused man’s arrest was lost and destroyed. The woman’s underwear was taken as evidence but then lost, while forensic evidence was also misplaced and only found by chance in a clear-out of a cupboard four years later.
The news comes two days after the Met revealed that paperwork relevant to the Daniel Morgan murder inquiry had been left undiscovered in a locked cupboard for years.
Details of the rape case emerged as the accused was found not guilty by a jury after a prosecution which lasted more than four years. His barrister, Gudrun Young KC, called it an “undoubtedly negligent police investigation”, questioning whether the case should have been abandoned by the Crown Prosecution Service before it reached a full trial.
The complainant had been drinking heavily and found herself lying on the floor outside the bar. CCTV recorded the woman “in a collapsed state” and supported her account of the night in 2018, said Ms Young, except there was no footage to back up her rape allegation.
Prosecutors argued the woman had been attacked during a 15-minute period when she was out of the range of CCTV cameras, but Ms Young said that area of the bar “bore no relation to her description of the room in which she was raped”.
“The investigation was characterised by a series of mistakes from the very outset,” said the barrister. She said forensic swabs from the defendant came back negative, and samples from the woman were lost when they were moved to a different location a few weeks after the allegation. “Her clothing, including her underwear, was seized but then lost. An eyewitness gave his details to the police, but the details were not correctly recorded and he could not be traced.”
The case was initially thrown out last June after a defence abuse of process application, with the judge criticising the Met for the “woeful” and “negligent” loss of evidence. But Court of Appeal judges overturned that decision, reviving the prosecution and insisting the man could still have a fair trial. Ms Young said the lost DNA evidence was found shortly before the trial, proving vital support for the defence case that the rape never happened.
A CPS spokesman said: “Each case is judged on its own merits. The prosecution was satisfied that this case met our evidential threshold after detailed consideration of all available evidence gathered by the Metropolitan police.
“The defence’s application to stop the case was also rejected by the Court of Appeal, which ruled the defendant could face a fair trial. A submission by the defence of no case to answer was denied during the second trial.”