Page last updated on Sunday 22nd April 2014 at 1250hrs
In a bizarre twist of fate, ex-Detective Constable Nicholas McFadden went through police training school with Danny Major, who is now nationally-known as a victim of a notable miscarriage of justice and features on a number of pages within this website. That, along with a whistleblower in West Yorkshire Police’s elite Organised Crime Group, enabled uPSD to shine the first light on criminal allegations made against “Nick the Thick”, as he was known to police colleagues. The local and regional press in West Yorkshire caught us up two months later.
McFadden stood trial at Leeds Crown Court, starting in February 2013, where it was alleged by Paul Greaney QC, prosecuting, that he ‘exploited his trusted position to help himself to drugs before they went for incineration’. In the course of his duties as an exhibits officer he had access to drugs seized during major police operations and, by taking advantage of ‘shoddy‘ procedures ‘not operated as robustly as one might expect by West Yorkshire Police’, he was able to get away with hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of heroin, cocaine, cannabis and amphetamines.
Those lax procedures included the signing off, by Detective Inspector Warren Stevenson, receipts of drugs, seized as part of Operation Grey Abbey, being shown as incinerated when McFadden had, in fact, retained them. Being outsmarted by someone like McFadden cannot do much for Stevenson’s credibility as a detective or man-manager. Or, more crucially, for the safety of the West Yorkshire public when exposed to drugs that have been taken from the streets, once before.
McFadden was also the second exhibits officer in West Yorkshire Police to face these type of accusions within a year. PC James Hughes was convicted of stealing a large quantity of cash siezed from lapdancing clubs and brothels in the Leeds area. He was jailed and full details of his case can be found here.
Mr Greaney (pictured top left) went on to tell the jury that McFadden, with the help of his brother Simon – and others – had then conspired together to supply the drugs for profit. “So, in other words, drugs which the police had succeeded in removing from the streets were put back there by the accused men, who did so for the sole purpose of making money for themselves“. He added “This plot of the McFadden brothers was successful and it generated huge sums in cash. They spent, the two of them, heavily, but made so much money they did not know what to do with it.” McFadden’s home, at the time in Pasture Drive, Castleford, was searched in 2011 soon after his arrest and almost £160,000 was found in bags in the garage and £6,000 was found in various compartments in his car.
Nicholas McFadden, 38 at the time of his trial, had denied four charges of stealing drugs and four of conspiracy to supply drugs, but admitted one charge of money laundering. His brother Simon, of Darfield Place, Harehills, Leeds, had also denied four charges of conspiracy to supply drugs and one of money laundering.
However, it took jurors on 2nd April, 2013 less than four hours to find Nicholas McFadden guilty of stealing class A and B drugs, including heroin and cocaine, and both brothers guilty of conspiring to supply them. The former police officer was acquitted on a charge of stealing the amphetamines and the jury found both not guilty of conspiring to supply it. They were sentenced to 23 years and 16 years imprisonment respectively on Thursday 4th April 2013 by Judge Tom Bayliss QC who said both were motivated by one factor – an “insatiable greed” – that made them “so much money that they simply did not know how to spend it”, but ultimately led to their downfall.
The brothers lived a champagne lifestyle, taking exotic holidays, designer clothing, expensive jewellery, artwork, home improvements and private number plates for their cars, jurors in the five-week trial heard. Simon McFadden also indulged his love of expensive sausages, which he and his wife washed down with large amounts of champagne.
Mr Greaney had told the jury during the trial that investigations into the detective constable’s activities belatedly commenced after the Yorkshire Building Society made a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) recording that he had made deposits in excess of £30,000 into an account, through external cashpoint machines. This automatically triggered the Society’s money laundering protocols.
West Yorkshire Police’s Anti Corruption Unit (a secret section of its Professional Standards Department) began covert inquiries, code-named Operation Washi, to see if Nicholas McFadden had won the Lottery or inherited money, but could find no legitimate explanation for his new found riches.
Mr Greaney went on to say that Nicholas McFadden did not dispute he suddenly came into money and had provided various explanations along the way. He first told colleagues in the Organised Crime Squad that spending on designer clothes, electrical items and trips was possible due to his wife having been diagnosed with cancer. He claimed they subsequently received a substantial critical illness insurance payment and McFadden said they had decided to ‘spoil themselves’.
McFadden was, however, found by the jury to have been lying in a quite calculated and cynical way since his wife had never been diagnosed with cancer. This was confirmed by the cuckolded Mrs Clair McFadden’s own witness box testimony. A fact which had escaped the attention of his Crime Squad supervisor, DI Stevenson, or Department Head DCS Ingrid Lee (pictured top centre) who has since being rewarded for ‘losing‘ millions of pounds worth of drugs by promotion to Assistant Chief Constable. Which is just typical of West Yorkshire Police. Lee was also, quite astonishingly, awarded the Queen’s Police Medal in December 2012. It is a certainty that Her Majesty was not made aware of the type of operation Lee was in charge of in West Yorkshire.
Conversely and perversely, McFadden told Clair (whose maiden name was Sexton), a deputy headmistress at St Anthony’s Catholic Primary School in Beeston, Leeds, that the extra money came from doing lots of police overtime for double pay and remortgaging his former home in Ossett.
In yet another perceived version of the truth, McFadden told ‘on-off’ girlfriend, another West Yorkshire Police detective, DC Tanya Strangeway, with whom he had rekindled a sexual relationship both before and during his marriage to Clair, and to whom he gave more than £13,000 in cash, that it was from the sale of the house in Ossett. £10,000 of that cash was handed to her gift-wrapped. Strangeway claimed that she thought she was being ‘paid off for the time she had spent at McFadden’s house’. She belatedly told a senior officer only when she was being vetted for promotion. McFadden had, incredibly, also bought Strangeway an Audi A4 car, costing £10,000, without arousing her suspicions. She must be one hell of a detective and, of course, the spectre of sex on duty raises its head again, as in the infamous DCI Liz Belton and C/Supt Ian Whitehouse farrago (Read more here).
Strangeway and McFadden first met whilst working together at City & Holbeck CID, in Leeds and subsequently became engaged in 2006. Simon McFadden had described the extra marital relationship in 2011 as his brother ‘knocking off’ Strangeway, which is one way of describing it. Another would be that the relationship between Nick McFadden and Strangeway actually re-commenced one year earlier than claimed by the pair in evidence at Court.
Incredibly, Strangeway faces no criminal charges or disciplinary measures arising from the receipt of the illicit cash but she does take a walk into our own Rogues Officers Gallery (click here). The police may have accepted her explanation ‘I didn’t feel like I had to ask questions about it’ (the cash and car). uPSD are less convinced. There is, also, a legitimate concern that a detective so obviously challenged, intellectually, should have been involved in a murder investigation as challenging as the one that led to the conviction of The Bradford Three. Read more by clicking here.
After his arrest Nicholas McFadden told investigating officers they would not believe him but after seeing men behaving suspiciously near the slip road of the M62 motorway at Castleford he had searched the area and found two bags of cash in the undergrowth, after which he kept thinking “all his birthdays had come at once”.
Nicholas McFadden’s account at trial was that he had stolen the money from a drug dealer while his brother, Simon, who was estimated to have benefited by a sum in the region of £160,000, maintained he knew nothing of any criminal conduct of his brother. He said he had won money at the casino in what he described as “an extremely good run of luck” when, in fact, he had lost £8,000.
The Crown contention was that Nicholas McFadden had stolen drugs from three different criminal seizures. Cocaine with a street value of £36,200 for which he was the exhibits officer, a 95 kilo (209 lb) shortfall worth between £75,000 and £125,000 when a haul of cannabis resin was destroyed and some if not all of a £3m seizure of heroin and £325,000 of amphetamine which was not recorded as returned to the store by McFadden from a court trip.
After the conviction of the drug dealers concerned with the latter haul of £3.25 million, the lax DI Warren Stevenson of West Yorkshire Police’s Organised Crime Squad was quoted as saying: “This is a significant amount of drugs which we have been able to successfully remove from the streets of local communities. We do know that drugs can and do cause misery and can also lead to another serious crimes being committed“. How propitious that was and by one of his own team of detectives and through his own rank negligence. Stevenson has faced no disciplinary action as a result of this appalling lapse.
Following the McFadden guilty verdict, the ludicrously self-possessed Detective Chief Inspector Nick Wallen, of West Yorkshire Police’s ACU, said he was extremely pleased with the outcome: “This case has focused on a corrupt police officer – this man was in fact a criminal purporting to be a police officer.” Wallen is scheduled to appear himself in the Rogue Officers section of this website during the coming months. Working as part of a Professional Standards Department unit in West Yorkshire Police he will know all about criminals purporting to be police officers. Wallen also failed to explain how his “meticulous investigation” had left no offender convicted of the disappearance of £325,000 of amphetamines from police safe storage. If McFadden didn’t ‘have them away’ who did?
Alison Storey, a senior Crown Prosecution Service prosecutor said: “The convictions today prove that corrupt police officers are not above the law they are expected to uphold and they, and their criminal acquaintances, will be brought to justice.” We have just two words to say to that Ms Storey: Operation Douglas, for which the CPS has failed to bring a single conviction in a case involving very serious, sustained and, most crucially, well evidenced corruption by high-ranking West Yorkshire Police officers and a subsequent cover-up of breathtaking audacity by that same Force who were allowed to investigate themselves over the matter. Read full Operation Douglas story by clicking here.
Hapless and thoroughly hopeless, Mark Burns-Williamson, Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire, said: “This was a gross breach of trust by a police officer who was sworn to protect the communities of West Yorkshire. The sentence handed down by the Judge today reflects that”.
“This was a one-off case involving a very determined effort to corrupt the systems in place by someone in a highly privileged position. I have been working closely with the Force and the shared internal audit team to strengthen the processes for securing seized property and tracking proceeds of crime.”
Which is an absolute and downright lie, as well Burns-Williamson knows. There has been a string of undetected thefts from police property stores and safes – and asking a clueless ex-WYPA internal audit team to be in charge of anything other than loo-rolls is a recipe for further disaster for the taxpayer.
At a POCA confiscation hearing in March 2014, held at the same Leeds Crown Court as the original trial, it was revealed that he hade made a staggering £1,102,204.31 from his crimes.
Nicholas McFadden was ordered to pay £257,052.08 – the total value of all the assets available to him. McFadden, who elected to remain in his prison cell while the hearing took place, was given six months to pay the amount and warned that, if he defaults, three years will be added to his jail term.
Both Simon and Karen McFadden have also faced confiscation proceedings, although Simon (like his brother) chose not to attend. The court heard Simon benefited to the tune of £694,678.15 and had available assets of £41,419.06. He must pay that back within six months or he will see 18 months added to his sentence.
Karen benefited by £83,582.93 and has available assets of £28,237.81. She has to pay it back within six months or she we will receive a 12 month jail term.
Which all rather adds up to the conclusion that for the McFaddens stealing from West Yorkshire Police was a very profitable enterprise. This is the mathematics:
Total benefits to three defendants: £1,880,465.39
Nick McFadden £1,102,204.31
Simon McFadden £694,678.15
Karen McFadden £83,582.93
Total recovered via POCA: £326,708.95
Nick McFadden £257,052.08
Simon McFadden £41,419.06.
Karen McFadden £28,237.81.
Nett Deficit: £1,553,756.44