Two Metropolitan police officers have pleaded guilty after taking photographs of two murdered women at a crime scene they were supposed to be guarding, before sharing images on a WhatsApp group.
PC Deniz Jaffer, 48, and PC Jamie Lewis, 33, admitted misconduct in public office at the Old Bailey, over the photos taken on their mobile phones, in a park where the sisters Nicole Smallman, 27, and Bibaa Henry, 46, were found stabbed to death.
The judge, Mark Lucraft QC, warned both men after their guilty pleas that they were “extremely likely” to be jailed for their offences.
The two officers were guarding the scene on 7 June 2020 at Fryent Country Park in Wembley, north-west London, shortly after the bodies of the two women had been found.
They left the posts they had been assigned to and approached the bodies of the murdered women. They then took out their mobile phones and took pictures of the bodies.
Lewis edited one of the photos and superimposed his face on to it with the two murdered women visible in the background. He took other photos from the crime scene, which did not show the victims, and shared them with a group of more than 40 officers via WhatsApp who called themselves the “A-team”.
Henry, a senior social worker, and Smallman, a photographer, had been celebrating the elder sister’s birthday in the park. After the celebration ended, they stayed behind and were attacked.
They were reported missing the next day and a search by family and friends led to the partner of one of the sisters finding their bodies.
Danyal Hussein, who was 18 at the time, from Blackheath in south London, has been convicted of the murder of both sisters and jailed for life.
Jaffer, of Hornchurch in east London, and Lewis, from Colchester in Essex, have been suspended from duty. Both were based with the Met’s North East Area Command, and are expected to face disciplinary action by the police force, which was rocked by the scandal, revealed by the Guardian.
Lucraft told the men he viewed their offences as grave enough to merit lengthy imprisonment: “These matters are extremely serious and you should be under no illusions when you return for sentence it is extremely likely you will receive custodial sentences, custodial sentences of some length for your conduct.”
Both men pleaded guilty to a single count of misconduct in public office.
The indictment says the offences took place between 7 June, the day the bodies were found, and 23 June 2020.
The two Met officers were arrested on 22 June 2020 by the Independent Office for Police Conduct, which investigated the case. The officers admitted entering a crime scene they were supposed to protect without authorisation.
In a statement after the guilty pleas, the Crown Prosecution Service, which authorised the criminal charges against the two officers, gave more details about the case.
The CPS said: “An investigation found that while on duty in the park both PC Jaffer and PC Lewis left their posts and approached the murdered women – risking contamination of the crime scene – to take pictures of them on their phones.
“PC Lewis edited one of the pictures by superimposing his own face on to the photograph with the victims in the background. He sent the resulting image to PC Jaffer, who then forwarded it unsolicited to a female officer also present at the scene.
“PC Jaffer showed one of the photos of the victims to a male officer as they left the park. PC Lewis also shared photographs he had taken at the crime scene, which did not show the victims, with a WhatsApp group of 40-plus police officers called the A Team.
“PC Jaffer, meanwhile, sent photographs of the victims to three friends via WhatsApp.”
Paul Goddard from the CPS said: “Their thoughtless and insensitive actions have no doubt caused immeasurable further distress and pain to the heartbroken family and friends of Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry who were already left reeling from the loss of their loved ones.”
Smallman and Henry were the daughters of a pioneering cleric, Mina Smallman, the Church of England’s first female archdeacon from a black and minority ethnic background.
The murdered women’s mother accused the Met of having a “toxic” culture and said the force’s errors had exacerbated her pain after the brutal killing of her daughters.
The Met commissioner, Cressida Dick, speaking last year, said the officers’ actions were “shocking”. “It is disgusting and the whole of the Met would condemn what has happened here,” she added.
The officers will be sentenced at a later date and were granted bail.