British Police 'Must Investigate Murder'

7 January 2014, 11:42 | Updated: 7 January 2014, 11:52

Two London MPs are asking the Prime Minister to intervene so that British police can help investigate the death of a teenager in Greece.

Tyrell Matthews-Burton, from Leyton, was killed in the holiday resort of Malia, Crete, last July, in a fight which Greek police claimed involved nearly 30 British people.

Myles Litchmore-Dunbar, also from east London, is awaiting trial for the murder of Mr Matthews-Burton but denies stabbing him.

Labour's Heidi Alexander told the Commons that Litchmore-Dunbar's family, who live in her Lewisham East constituency, have "very serious concerns" about the Greek authorities' handling of the murder investigation and believe the support provided to them by the British Government has been "wholly inadequate".

Ms Alexander said: "And they passionately believe the British police should be involved in investigating Tyrell's murder."

Fellow Labour MP Stella Creasy (Walthamstow) insisted the case of Mr Matthews-Burton stood in stark contrast to other British nationals, such as that of missing girl Madeleine McCann.

Ms Creasy, who represents Mr Matthews-Burton's family, said measures were in place to ensure the British authorities could seek to bring the case to the UK for trial.

But she explained a senior investigating officer was only appointed following an intervention by Prime Minister David Cameron although added they say there is nothing they can do as the Greek police have refused their help.

The case was raised during an adjournment debate on access to justice for British citizens involved in serious crime abroad.

Addressing the Litchmore-Dunbar family's concerns, Ms Alexander told the Commons: "I don't come to the chamber this evening to assert any individual's guilt or innocence.

"But I would like to say for the record that Myles Litchmore-Dunbar maintains his innocence and argues on the night of July 23 in Malia he was also attempting to break-up a brawl, which led to the stabbing of Tyrell."

She added: "On the basis of what I have been told I believe there is reason for the British Government to be worried that the process under way in Greece at the moment will not result in the sort of justice that we would expect to be delivered in our own country.

"I want justice to be done. I want the right person to be convicted for the murder of Tyrell Matthews-Burton and I want the British Government to help make this happen."

Clothing worn by Mr Matthews-Burton on the night of his death has been posted back to his family in the UK, Ms Alexander said.

She continued: "I am at a loss to understand why this clothing would not be retained in Greece as evidence and I am concerned that this suggests the Greek authorities may be failing to deal with this matter appropriately.

Ms Alexander added she wanted the Government to think again about British police involvement in the investigation.

She said: "A British man was killed in a brawl that involved another 18 or so British citizens and a British family is grieving for their son. Is there really no way in which this case could be investigated by the British police or heard in a British court?

Moving the debate, Ms Creasy said the Greek authorities had caused continuous distress to Mr Matthews-Burton's family and she questioned the role of British consular officials.

Ms Creasy also explained Mr Cameron met the victim's mother but contrary to the Prime Minister's own suggestion she was not eligible for legal aid.

The MP said: "The family were then told there was no such public funding in the UK for representation and so the official advice from the Foreign Office officials was that the family should approach Tyrell's former employer - he had a Saturday job at Next - or the mother's current employer - a housing association - to ask them to fund legal advice.

"When I queried this the officials simply told me this was standard practice."

She added: "Thankfully in the last few weeks some progress has now started to be made. Money has now been made forthcoming from Victim Support.

"This limited funding granted in December will cover an initial instruction for a Greek lawyer. Yet at present this £1,800 is the sum total of support we have given as a nation to this grieving mother, in a case such as this where it could be expected the cost could reach 20,000 euros. (£16,600)"

On the potential involvement of British police, Ms Creasy said a memorandum of understanding had been signed.

She told MPs: "Specifically this decrees where a matter involves a British national as a victim and a British national as a suspect the UK police can appoint a senior investigating officer (SIO) and indeed under section nine of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 the suspect can be prosecuted in England and Wales.

"Despite this case meeting this test there has been no involvement in the investigation of this matter or movement on this matter by the police for this to be brought to the UK for trial even though (Prime Minister David Cameron) himself agreed to raise this with the (Metropolitan Police).

"An SIO was finally appointed at the point the Prime Minister intervened but nothing more has happened and as they say the Greek police have refused their help they say there is nothing they can do.

"This stands in stark contrast to other well-known cases, such as that of Madeleine McCann, where the Prime Minister's intervention has rightly been crucial to achieving such progress."

Ms Creasy added: "The Foreign Office tell me... that 'Because we don't know the quality of the Greek investigation' they have decided they cannot tell whether it would be appropriate to ask the Met to get involved.

"So we cannot know if the investigation is proceeding appropriately and our authorities are not following their own protocol.

"What confidence can we then have that justice will be done?"

Among several requests, Ms Creasy asked the Foreign Office to ensure Victim Support has funds to provide full financial assistance for legal representation in the trial to the victim's family, or consider requesting the case is brought back for trial and investigation by UK police.

She also asked the Government department to review its protocols for managing support and intervention in such cases.

Ms Creasy said: "We cannot have a fair and just system if only those families who can secure a media presence receive the intervention they need when something terrible happens to their families overseas.

"Baroness Browning confirmed (Home Secretary Theresa May) and the Prime Minister intervened in the case of Madeleine McCann because they believed her to be alive.

"This intervention included an intervention to ensure the police had, what she termed, necessary funding.

"Tyrell may no longer be with us but his right to justice lives on as do the rights of his family and those of other murdered British citizens."

Replying for the Government, Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire said British police could not have got involved in the case as it happened on foreign soil.

He said a 2012 memorandum of understanding signed by the Government, the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) and the Coroners' Society of England and Wales clearly states that British police cannot investigate overseas crimes unless invited to do so by foreign authorities.

He said: "This memorandum of understanding is clear - that the United Kingdom police cannot investigate a crime overseas unless invited by a foreign government to do so.

"Even in cases where a suspect is British, the jurisdiction of the country where the crime took place takes precedence.

"United Kingdom police only get involved exceptionally where there is a genuine operational need such as securing forensic samples or conducting formal enquiries on behalf of foreign police in the United Kingdom. This was not the case following Tyrell's death."

But the Foreign Office Minister did reveal that the victim's mother had now secured access to a Greek lawyer and legal funding following a meeting with Ms Creasy and Prime Minister David Cameron.

He said: "The Foreign and Commonwealth Office cannot fund legal representation. We are simply not resourced to offer such funding and in the case of Miss Matthews have done all we can to explore alternative legal aid options in the United Kingdom and in Greece including offering advice on the EU compensation scheme.

"Following the meeting between you, Miss Matthews and the Prime Minister I'm pleased that work to identify both a lawyer and funding from victim support has enabled MIss Matthews to appoint a Greek lawyer."

Mr Swire insisted the Foreign Office had gone above its remit in this case.

He said: "There has been no failure by this Government on any point, I entirely refute that and I do not think that is helpful of you when we are doing everything we can for your constituent to suggest that."

He went on: "We are absolutely certain that we have followed the existing guidelines in every single way, in fact more so."