A veteran detective was jailed today after forging the signature of a key witness in a murder investigation prompting a judge to lambast his ‘laziness to a criminal degree’.
DC Robert Ferrow, 50, faked the name of Ashley Grace-O’Neill on statements as he investigated Shaun Dyson over the the death of his wife Lucy-Anne Rushton.
The police officer took testimony from Mr Grace-O’Neill, who was Dyson’s best friend, on the day mother-of-five Ms Rushton was found at her home in Andover, Hants.
But when the witness asked to leave, DC Ferrow suggested he signed blank witness statement pages so the detective could finish transcribing text messages between him and Dyson.
Mr Grace-O’Neil agreed, but when he returned to the police station the next day to check his statement he noticed other pages with his signature had been forged.
The evidence had to be taken again before Ms Rushton’s estranged husband Dyson was jailed for life to serve minimum of 17 years for the murder in December 2019.
In August DC Ferrow was found guilty following a five day trial at Winchester Crown Court, Hants, by unanimous decision after a jury spent just two hours deliberating.
The offence – making a false instrument with intent for it to be accepted as genuine, under the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981 – has a maximum ten-year sentence.
A detective has been found guilty of forging a witness statement during the murder investigation of Lucy-Anne Rushton, who was killed by her husband Shaun Dyson (pictured together)
Detective Constable Robert Ferrow, 50, forged the signature of Ashley Grace-O’Neill, a friend of Dyson, on five pages of a witness statement he had taken away to ‘write out’ with text messages that were being used as evidence. Pictured: Ferrow leaving court
Today at court he was was sentenced to eight months in jail.
Bespectacled DC Ferrow, who wore a white shirt and red tie, did not react as he was jailed, while his wife watched on from the public gallery.
Recorder James Watson QC told the detective: ‘It is shocking that an experienced police officer such as yourself should commit such an act of dishonesty.
‘Not only did you deliberately forge the witness’s signature, you chose to conceal the fact you did so from the witness when you had contact with him that evening.
‘It should not be overlooked that your conduct was not only shocking but was a serious and fundamental breach of your duty owed to the public and it was also a breach of trust to the witness himself.
‘Your motive was to take a short cut but that understates your conduct – it was laziness to a criminal degree.’
During the trial Robert Bryan, prosecuting, told jurors Mr Grace-O’Neill was at Andover police station giving his witness statement on June 23, 2019.
Mr Bryan explained that Mr Grace-O’Neill forwarded screenshots of text messages between himself and Dyson to DC Ferrow but, when the officer said he needed to write these up as well, they came to an agreement.
Mr Bryan told the court: ‘After between 90 minutes and two hours the officer who was taking the witness statement said he also needed to write into the witness statement every single text message that had gone between Mr Grace-O’Neill and Shaun Dyson.
DC Ferrow took a statement from Ashley Grace-O’Neill (pictured), killer Dyson’s best friend. But when the witness asked to leave, DC Ferrow suggested he sign blank witness statement pages so the detective could finish transcribing text messages
Ferrow, who has 18 years’ experience as an officer, will be sentenced at Winchester Crown Court in September
‘He asked if he could return the next day, after the officer had transcribed the text messages, to check it as truthful and accurate and sign it.
‘[DC Ferrow] described it as, ‘if I’m only copying it out… do you want to sign a couple of blank pages and I would be able to write it out’.
‘It was definitely the officer’s idea.
‘He said ‘I still want to come down and read it to check if it’s ok’, and the officer said that would be fine to do that.’
However, Mr Bryan explained the 23-page witness statement, with each page signed, was instead submitted to Detective Sergeant Daniel Hunt at 9.44pm that night.
When Mr Grace-O’Neill came down to Andover police station the next day, he saw a number of pages he had not signed.
Mr Bryan added: ‘He had signed some blank pages but some of the pages in the witness statement had not been signed by him.
‘Those not signed by him had been forged. He thought he had signed between five and ten pages.’
The court heard Mr Grace-O’Neill said he had signed pages one to six as the interview went along, but then signed approximately nine blank pages before leaving.
However, DC Ferrow – who served in the British Army and Royal Navy before joining Hampshire Constabulary in 2001 – denied signing any of the pages himself.
When questioned by Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) officers, DC Ferrow claimed the witness had signed every page and that he even had two extra signed blank pages, which he ‘tore up and disposed of in confidential waste’.
He told the court: ‘It was his suggestion of signing so he could leave because he didn’t want to leave his phone. He said he just wanted to get it over and done with there and then.
‘He signed all the blank statement forms. I didn’t sign any statement forms..’
Originally from Liverpool, DC Ferrow was working as part of Operation Amberstone, Hampshire Police’s serious sexual offences unit based in Portsmouth, at the time of the offence.
Shaun Dyson, then 28, was jailed for life to serve a minimum of 17 years at Winchester Crown Court in December 2019 for the murder of his estranged wife Ms Rushton at the family home in Andover, Hampshire, while children were at the property.
He originally denied her murder and admitted a lesser charge of manslaughter, but changed his plea to guilty after the jury heard horrific details of a long history of domestic violence.
Dyson was said to have become ‘enraged’ by a phone call 30-year-old Ms Rushton received from a man she had been in a relationship with.
The couple – who got together in 2010 and married four years later after eloping to Gretna Green – frequently argued but had split by the beginning of 2019.
Six months after their ‘toxic’ relationship ended Dyson demanded his wife swallow her wedding ring before launching a murderous assault on her in her home.
Dyson repeatedly stamped and jumped on her body in a ‘prolonged and very severe’ attack in June 2019. She had been dead for ‘some time’ before he decided to dial 999, claiming Ms Rushton had drowned.
Source: Daily Mail UK