London – Three killers had their murder convictions quashed after a detective failed to disclose that she knew one of the jurors in their trial, it emerged on Tuesday.
Detective Constable Rebecca Bryant – a family liaison officer in the case – kept it secret that her son’s girlfriend was on the jury hearing the evidence against the killers of Lynford Brewster, 29.
Her actions cost the taxpayer at least £80 000 because the men’s convictions were quashed by the Court of Appeal and a retrial was ordered.
DC Bryant, 46, sent text messages to juror Lauren Jones to keep quiet about knowing each other ahead of the trial, and even offered her lifts to court.
One text read: ‘Don’t tell any of them who u r to me tho in case they think I’ve told u about it although u know I haven’t xxx.’
Strict laws exist about links between jurors and the cases they are trying to ensure defendants are able to get a fair trial.
DC Bryant, an officer with nearly 30 years’ experience, sat with Mr Brewster’s family in the courtroom while teaching assistant Miss Jones was yards away on the jury bench at Cardiff Crown Court.
Dwayne Edgar, 31, Jake Whelan, 26, and Robert Lainsbury, 25, were convicted in December 2016 of murder over the ‘cold-blooded’ killing, and jailed for life.
But all three had their convictions quashed after the relationship between the detective and juror was later discovered.
A Court of Appeal judgment – handed down last year but covered until now by reporting restrictions – said: ‘Several weeks after the trial an appellant’s solicitor received information that Detective Constable Bryant had a close relationship with a member of the jury. That officer’s son was in a long-term relationship with the juror.
‘There was recovered from the officer’s phone a series of texts which the pair had exchanged at that time. It is clear that the officer initially lied about having any relationship with Ms Jones, although she subsequently admitted contacts with her in interview.’
Lord Justice Treacy told the appeal hearing: ‘It is crystal clear that this juror should never have sat on this trial.
‘The folly of the juror and the police officer have wasted vast amounts of time and cost the public a great deal of money.’
On Monday, Edgar, Whelan and Lainsbury were convicted for a second time after a seven-week retrial at Bristol Crown Court. They will be sentenced on Tuesday for the murder. Father-of-three Mr Brewster was stabbed to death with a hunting knife in a ‘callous, cold-blooded’ killing during a row with drugs dealer Whelan in the Llanedeyrn district of Cardiff in June 2016.
South Wales Police said an investigation by the force had found that DC Bryant had not committed any criminal offences and her case would be dealt with through the force’s internal disciplinary system. The investigation had been independently reviewed.