Commander Ray Adams’ mystery year

In the two days that it took to erase all known records of Operation Othona—to shred the surveillance logs, witness statements, listening device records, photographs and informant contact sheets, to sledge hammer the videos, computer drives and tape records, in short to bludgeon the history of one of the London Metropolitan’s Police’s largest corruption investigation into oblivion in 2001, the mood among those who had been targets of the inquiry must have been exultant.

Ray Adams on 2012 Panorama program 'Murdoch's Pay-TV Pirates'

Ray Adams on 2012 Panorama program ‘Murdoch’s Pay-TV Pirates’

That’s if they actually knew about the wholesale destruction of course. Othona was a four-year corruption investigation ordered by the then commissioner Paul Condon in 1993. The Ellison report into the investigation of Stephen Lawrence’s murder released last month could extract no reason for why the files were destroyed, and offered only two names that the Operation Othona files had targeted: Detective John Davidson, who was said to have been attached to the investigation into the axe murder of private investigator Daniel Morgan in 1987, as well as the Lawrence investigation in 1993; and former Commander Ray Adams.

There’s no suggestion that either man was involved in the destruction of Operation Othona records in 2001 or even that they were major targets of Othona’s investigators. Adams was about to fall out with his employer, News Corporation, where he was European chief of Operational Security for NDS, Rupert Murdoch’s high-tech arm based in Israel. Adams would leave News and NDS in mid-2002 after his prize agent, uber-hacker Oliver Koemmerling, defected to the French Canal Plus in sensational circumstances, and agreed to testify against NDS, about its attempts sabotage News Corp’s pay-tv rivals. Adams’ parting from News Corp was a little acrimonious, particularly after he informed NDS that thieves had broken into his wife’s car and stolen the hard drive from his computer, the night before he was due to give the hard drive back.

By 2004 Adams would pop up in a travelling role with the UK National Crime Squad’s high tech crime unit, so things turned out all right for Ray. In 2003 it’s harder to say what he was doing. Perhaps he was just Being Ray Adams, with all the giddy pleasure that that evokes.

Adams’ history and character is of interest because he had such a senior operational role within a media organisation, News Corporation. Adams isn’t a major part of the Ellison Report. He shuffles on and off the stage in slightly mystifying cameos. In fact his part reads more like a whodunnit, which begins with the mystery fragment Ellison plucks from what is called the Bawdsey documents. [Bawdsey is just a name for a hard drive that was located by Ellison that seems to have some of the Othona intelligence reports on it. Why Bawdsey? Police seem to have an insurmountable compulsion to provide operational names for almost any object in the visible spectrum. Walking the dog would be Operation Spot, or Where Beagles Dare or something tremendously droll].

The killer reference that Ellison extracts from the Bawdsey hard drive is this:

 Having ignored Acting Commander Holbrook’s recommendations on disciplining ‘Officer XX’  “that he be removed from duties that utilise aspects of police work of a delicate and confidential nature”, Commander Ray Adams seconded ‘Officer XX’ to conduct a review of surveillance operations. ‘Officer XX’ was subsequently loaned to the Regional Crime Squad (RCS) to be engaged on the Heinz food contamination enquiry.

Some background here: Some years back UK customs and Excise were running a surveillance operation on a suspected narcotics importer called Clifford Norris, when they spotted a policeman, Officer XX, meet Norris and exchange packages with him. Officer XX was subsequently put on a discipline charge of making false entries on his duty reports, for being away from his place of duty and some other infractions, but no mention of those wonderful packages.

Ellison notes of ‘Sergeant XX’:

He was required to resign by the disciplinary board, but at a later appeal before the Assistant Commissioner he was allowed to continue his service, reduced to the rank of detective constable. The [1997 Lawrence] Inquiry felt bound to say that, having seen the discipline file, the appeal decision was unduly lenient.

This became relevant some years later, when Officer XX had an inconsequential role in the murder investigation when a black teenager, Stephen Lawrence, was stabbed to death by white youths in 1993. Eighteen years later Clifford Norris’s son David was one of two convicted of the murder. But back in 1997, a royal commission had been set up to inquire into why police had made such a hash of the murder investigation. Were they corruptly trying to protect David Norris as a favor to his father?

Ray Adams in 1997 when he was European head of NDS Operational Security for Rupert Murdoch

Ray Adams in 1997 when he was European head of NDS Operational Security for Rupert Murdoch

In the course of this inquiry the lawyer for Stephen Lawrence’s family called Ray Adams, who had had a minor role in the investigation, and gave him a hard time. Officer XX had a proven link to Clifford Norris, and it was thought that Adams had done Norris a favour at the time by transferring him to the surveillance section. Adams explained that this was completely wrong, that it was a routine transfer and he had not even known who Officer Xx was when he transferred him. Officer XX confirmed this, and minimised his role at Surveillance. The only problem with this explanation is the Bawdsey reference.

Ellison concludes:

Our concern arises because, when he gave evidence to the Inquiry, Mr Adams said [Transcript Day 54]:

“Q: I want to ask you about a detective sergeant who has been referred to as “X” in these proceedings. That is his name, in fact, on that piece of paper. Now, the question, and I think you have been – it was on the notice served on you by me weeks ago now – do you know that officer?

“A: The first time I heard this name in connection with this was, in fact, when a journalist in this building said to me: ‘You are going to be asked about “Mr X”.’ My immediate response then was: ‘Who?’ It is still so. I had no recollection of this officer whatsoever.

“Q: So you know nothing about that officer at all?

“A: As far as I can recall I have not encountered the officer as far as I can recall.”

Obviously, if Mr Adams had been personally involved in ‘Officer XX’ being seconded to the department in which he worked, or if he had otherwise had personal knowledge of ‘Officer XX’ as a result of that secondment, such that he must have remembered him when he gave evidence, then the truthfulness of the above evidence falls into sharp focus.

Were there to be clear evidence that this was a lie, it is also fair to say that the whole of Mr Adams’ evidence to the Inquiry may need to be re-evaluated in that light, as ‘Officer XX’ was the one officer shown to the Inquiry’s satisfaction to have most likely had corrupt connections with Clifford Norris as a result of the Customs investigation that observed them meeting in suspicious circumstances.

Adams’ name appears on lists of police officers suspected of being corrupt in several reports cited by Ellison, but there is no evidence to take it beyond suspicion. Adams was the subject of two major corruption allegations investigated by the CIB as Operation Russell. In addition, Adams was the subject of 11 other complaints between 1965 and 1985 “all of which were either unsubstantiated, withdrawn or not proceeded with”.

Adams emerged from all of this unscathed, with all allegations dismissed and could still describe himself as one of the most decorated policemen in the Met’s history. The only off note was that he “was given ‘suitable advice’ in relation to one incident which occurred in 1987”.

That’s the same year Officer XX ran into his trouble with Clifford Norris. It’s also the year  Daniel Morgan was found murdered with an axe in his head in a London hotel car park.

The question all this raises is: What was Ray Adams doing in 1987? Three separate corruption-related investigations saw major cross-over of personnel. These are the key dates in 1987:

February: Commander Thelma Wagstaff was appointed head of SO11, the criminal intelligence division of Scotland Yard. But by mid-afternoon of the day of her appointment, Michael Gillard and Laurie Flynn write in their book Untouchables, it had been reversed and the SO11 job given to the newly promoted Commander Adams.

February: A detective called Derek Haslam arrested a mid-level drug dealer called Raymond Gray, who made a series of claims about a senior Met officer.

March 10: Daniel Morgan, a partner of Southern Investigations, found dead in car park of the Golden Lion pub in Sydenham, south London. Mr Morgan’s family believe he was on the verge of exposing police corruption when he was murdered. Bawdsey documents: DS John Davidson “was attached to the investigation into the axe murder of former policeman Daniel Morgan in 1987″. Met later tells Ellison it can find no record of this.

April 3: Morgan’s partner Jonathon Rees, his two brother-in-law, detective sergeant Sid Fillery, who was part of the initial murder investigation, and two other detectives arrested, but released without charge.

April 9: Gray tells Haslam that Adams received series of corrupt payments dating back to 1973. CIB2’s deputy assistant commissioner Peter Winship opens Operation Russell under the Police Complaints Authority into Gray’s claim and into an unrelated allegation about Adams having an improper relationship with his former informant Kenneth Noye.

May: Adams has meeting with his friend Detective Sergeant Taffy Holmes, who has been described as a former partner of Davidson, to discuss the investigation into Adams. (Adams has told the Guardian that he did not know who Davidson was and that the corrupt payments targeted by Operation Russell were made to another police officer).

Holmes had been part of the investigation of the ₤26 million Brinks Mats robbery which had led to Noye being convicted of handling the stolen gold, after he was acquitted of stabbing an undercover officer to death. Holmes was in a long-term relationship with Jean Burgess, the ex-wife of armed robber Henry Burgess.

Untouchables quotes Haslam on Holmes:  “He told me [in early June 1987] that he believed he had been photographed meeting with Henry Burgess and Ray Adams in Jean Burgess’s back garden a few weeks before.”

The Guardian wrote in 2012 that a Met inquiry found Holmes had met Adams during the corruption inquiry and was believed to have passed him details of the allegations and of the investigation’s progress.

June/July: Untouchables quotes Adams referring to what appears to be a second meeting:

“Adams denied having an unauthorised secret meeting with Holmes on a golf course that backed on to his home. He said he was walking his dog and bumped into Taffy who used to go shooting on the golf course. The conversation was limited to warning Taffy to be careful because the dog was off its lead.”

Ellison quotes a report by Commander Wagstaff which confirms that Adams had at least two meetings with Holmes. Wagstaff concluded:

a) That the investigating officer came to the following conclusions capable of amounting to reprehensible conduct by Mr Adams during the course of a complaints investigation:

Mr Adams had failed to report meetings with Detective Constable Alan Holmes as he should have done; and

he had also, contrary to what he asserted, engineered a meeting with DC Holmes via a criminal intermediary against DC Holmes’ wishes, as he needed to know what he was going to say to the complaints investigators about an earlier meeting they had had, which in the opinion of the investigating officer bordered on interfering with the complaints investigation;

and that in each of these respects his conduct was considered by the reporting officer to be highly questionable and unprofessional.

b) That otherwise the investigating officer found the various complaints concerning Mr Adams to be unsubstantiated by the balance of the evidence before him.

July 29: Holmes, under pressure to give evidence against Adams, shoots himself in his backyard.


“Just before he killed himself Taffy told his [former] partner, detective sergeant John Davidson, that he planned to kill Haslam, who he believed had comprehensively betrayed him to CIB2.”

Guardian 2012:

“An inquest found he had killed himself, on the eve of Adams being interviewed by corruption investigators. . . . Holmes, a close colleague of Adams, was close friends with Davidson and had partnered with him. On his final day alive Holmes spent most of his time in the company of Davidson, who has denied allegations he was corrupt in the Lawrence murder investigation or during his policing career.”

October: Customs and Excise investigators catch Officer XX received packages from Clifford Norris. Bawdsey file states that Adams later reinstated Officer XX to active role in Surveillance after recommendation he be dismissed. Adams said he never heard of Officer XX.

It should be stressed that no adverse findings have ever been made against Adams, or Davidson.Both retired with full pensions.

4 thoughts on “Commander Ray Adams’ mystery year

  1. This is extremely interesting. I know that at the time of my brother’s murder, John Davidson was working at the Serious Crime Squad at Tottenham Court Road and believe that he had some interaction with the investigation into Daniel’s murder. I find it absolutely extraordinary that Adams replaced Thelma Wagstaff at such short notice and wonder what lay behind that.

  2. Davidson is now off the radar screen. He has left Minorca and is rumoured to be at his other property in Florida USA. Wagstaff was named in “The Untouchables” and the entire cover up concerning Daniel Morgan and Stephen Lawrence’s murders may be centre stage next month as there is something big in the pipeline (legal wise) that will shake New Scotland Yard.

  3. One small factual correction to an otherwise excellent article: my brother Daniel was never a policeman, at any time. I have heard that John Davidson’s interaction with the murder squad in 1987 had something to do with intelligence and it is also interesting that Raymond Adams was head of Criminal Intelligence at that time.

  4. Pingback: 1987: within months of Daniel Morgan’s Murder, a police Suicide | Live Tweeting the hacking trial

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