Suffolk police officer sacked for stealing dead man's belongings

Suffolk police dealt with more than 400 calls overnight on New Year's Eve

Jonathan Waller was sacked after being found guilty of gross misconduct - Credit: Archant

A Suffolk police officer has been sacked for gross misconduct after he stole a dead man's personal belongings from a station property store. 

Jonathan Waller, 47, was accused of taking a wallet, a bank card, £230 in cash, a passport, and a Samsung mobile phone from Mildenhall police station on August 8, 2020. 

On Wednesday, a disciplinary panel found the allegations proven and that Waller had breached the expected professional standards of behaviour in honesty and integrity and discreditable conduct, which amounted to gross misconduct. 

John Bassett, who chaired the three-day misconduct hearing held at Ipswich Town Football Club, told the hearing it was an "opportunistic theft in the circumstances". 

The panel was previously told how the personal items had been collected from a home following the sudden death of a man on August 7, 2020

Those items were then logged into the property store at Mildenhall police station in an evidence bag. 

However, when the next of kin made contact with police regarding the collection of items on August 10, 2020, they could not be found. 

A search of the store room, station and lockers took place, but the items could not be located. 

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The matter was then referred to Suffolk police's professional standards department. 

A general view of the stadium from above before the Sky Bet League One match at Portman Road, Ipswic

The misconduct hearing was held at Ipswich Town Football Club - Credit: PA

Analysis of phone data from the Samsung mobile revealed it was in Mildenhall on August 8 before travelling in the direction of Elveden on the A11 between 5pm and 5.06pm. It was powered off at 5.10pm. 

The panel was told that Waller, who lived in Honington at the time, had logged off at 4.51pm and the direction of the stolen phone matched his journey home from Mildenhall. 

Waller's personal phone was also analysed by professional standards, and data revealed it had followed a similar route towards Elveden on August 8. 

Waller was arrested but none of the items were found following a search of his home. 

In a victim impact statement, which was read to the hearing by Andrew Waters, for Suffolk police, the deceased man's sister said she "couldn't believe it" when she was told his belongings had been stolen. 

She added that the money would have gone to her brother's funeral costs and her "trust in the police has gone down". 

The panel was previously told that Waller had financial difficulties at the time of the incident, and earlier in the day on August 8, he was found to have searched websites relating to financial support for police officers. 

Waller, who was suspended throughout the investigation, had been an officer for 19 years - 16 of which had been spent with Suffolk Constabulary after joining the force from Thames Valley Police in 2006. 

Christopher Hopkins, mitigating, said Waller maintains he did not steal the items.

On behalf of Waller, he asked the panel "not to lose sight" of his previous good service to Suffolk Constabulary and Thames Valley Police. 

But Mr Bassett said the only decision the panel could reach was that Waller was dismissed without notice. 

He was also placed on the police barred list following the outcome. 

Suffolk police said a criminal investigation was carried out but following consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service, the case was not found to meet the threshold for prosecution. 

Detective Chief Inspector James Brown, of Norfolk and Suffolk professional standards department, said: “This was a despicable act carried out by someone whose duty was to uphold the law.

"Pc Waller breached the trust that was placed in him and we are disgusted by what he has done. Decisive action was taken once it became apparent the effects and cash were missing.

“What makes this worse is that Pc Waller was a police officer and the theft happened in a police station.

"The public rightly need to see transparency in misconduct hearings such as this. Jonathan Waller has let himself, his fellow officers and the constabulary down in the worst way possible. There is no place in Suffolk Constabulary or policing for those who commit such acts.

“The vast majority of our officers uphold the high standards of personal and professional behaviour expected of them and work hard each day to keep Suffolk’s communities safe. Where these standards are not met, we will always look to take action.

“I would like to thank the constabulary’s anti-corruption unit who have led this investigation and recognise the efforts they put in as a team for this outcome to have been reached.”