C/Supt John Holt

Page updated Sunday 24th February 2013 at 22.30

John Holt retired from West Yorkshire Police in 2005. His penultimate posting was as Divisional Commander of the Huddersfield-based Kirklees Division, which is the locality where uPSD are based. He was, however, moved out of the public eye once the extent of his involvement in the Operation Douglas corruption scandal became clear (see below).

Astonishingly, once Holt’s misconduct/criminality became fully known inside the Force he was promoted by Rogue Chief, Deputy Chief Constable David Crompton, to assist him managing all the other ten Divisional Commanders in the Force. Which is a another deeply driven nail in Crompton’s own corruption coffin.

Immediately after Operation Douglas, Holt (pictured above centre) had been centrally involved in another of the most high profile cases in recent West Yorkshire Police history. The investigation into the Death in Custody of Christopher Alder (see below). His roles in both were to mark him as a hugely incompetent officer who just bungled his way through investigations in much the same way as the infamous George Oldfield had done ten years, or so, earlier in the ill-starred Judith Ward and Yorkshire Ripper enquiries.

Holt also had the same approach to dishonesty as the discredited Oldfield, regarding it is simply routine in ‘getting the job done’ and it is just plainly astonishing that an officer of such low standing should be providing consultancy services to West Yorkshire Police, long after his retirement.

The first of the two cases in which Holt was Senior Investigating Officer (SIO), Operation Douglas, is now one of the biggest stains on West Yorkshire Police history and, currently, proving to be highly damaging to the police service as a whole. This, at a time, when confidence in the police is at its lowest ebb. A thorough, and extensive, investigation by the Yorkshire Post’s award winning investigative reporter, Rob Waugh, has reinforced the ground already laid by this website in the misuse of a supergrass, Karl Chapman, in pursuit of a conviction for the murder of Wakefield pensioner, Joe Smales (pictured top right) . The Yorkshire Post investigation is ongoing and we will report more fully once the newspaper has published all its material and we have added the fruits of our own enquiries. What we can point out is that, incredibly, Holt had been recruited a short time earlier from Merseyside Police by none other than arch Rogue Chief, Norman Bettison, then ACC (Personnel) in West Yorkshire. Which explains why Bettison, subsequently, went to extraordinary lengths to conceal the Operation Douglas investigation outcome from his own Police Authority and, of course, the wider public.

Amongst the main failings attributed personally to Holt, and documented as such by a North Yorkshire police external investigation, are the sustained signing of false receipts to conceal large amounts of cash paid to Chapman. Interviewed under caution by DCS Peter McKay, who led the inquiry into the supergrass debacle, Holt stated that this form of dishonesty was ‘common practice’ in West Yorkshire Police. He also lied in those interviews, claiming he had not been present when large cash sums were paid out but documented proof, such as custody records, contradict that.

” The inquiry report to the CCRC contained this damning indictment of Holt’s incompetence and honesty: “Evidence of expenditure was not provided or requested and the integrity of information never questioned or audited. Generally, there appears to have been an indifference to policy, procedures and guidance so long as he (the supergrass) was providing evidence and results were being achieved.”

As a result of the investigation led by Holt, two men Gary Ford and Danny Mansell were, between them, wrongly jailed for 27 years. This is set to cost the West Yorkshire public somewhere between £500,000 and £1 million as both men have launched civil damages claims against the police via different London solicitors. (More here).  Det Supt Holt was served with formal Regulation 7 notices of potential disciplinary action by DCS McKay, during Operation Douglas, but these were subsequently dropped by West Yorkshire Police, without explanation.

Holt has miraculously avoided any criminal or disciplinary sanction, whatsoever, for his dishonest and incompetent actions, even after the latest IPCC supervised internal inquiry codenamed Operation Waldhorn.

The second case featuring Supt John Holt  is the highly-publicised and nationally-known death in custody case of ex-paratrooper, Christopher Alder (pictured top left), who was found, by a Coroner’s jury, to have been unlawfully killed by Humberside Police officers whilst in the custody suite in Queen’s Gardens police station in Hull. Holt was the West Yorkshire Police officer charged with leading the outside force investigation into the circumstances of Chris Alder’s death. The probe was an unmitigated disaster almost from the moment Holt arrived in Hull on 1st April 1998. Fittingly, for Holt, that is known in the calendar as All Fool’s Day and that was what Holt was made to look in 2006 when the IPCC Review Report was finally published eight years later (full document here).

This is how the IPCC summarised Holt and West Yorkshire Police: Superintendent Holt lacked any experience of this type of investigation. He quickly adopted the attitude of Humberside officers that Alder had been struck a murderous blow outside the nightclub and that the death in custody was just an unfortunate accident of timing. The investigative recording processes were poor and the early assumption that the (Humberside) officers (in the custody suite) were not at fault meant that their PNB’s and duty statements were not secured as a priority and their clothing was returned to them so as not to ‘hurt their feelings ‘and without a clear rationale as to the evidential consequences. Regulation 7 disciplinary notices were not issued in a timely way.

We have much more to add over the next week or so as enquiries widen into his extraordinary failings as a police officer. What the above summary does not include is that Holt gave himself, and another of the only three officers on his ‘investigation’ team, the week off only five days after the enquiry began, having already noted in his policy log that he didn’t see the Humberside officers as being at fault for the death in custody. A view he affirmed the following day after viewing the CCTV of the time Chris Alder spent in the custody suite. A decision that even shocked Humberside senior detectives who were investigating, separately, the assault on Chris at the nightclub. Supt Ken Bates had quickly deduced that something had gone badly wrong and that it was likely that a manslaughter charge may be brought against his fellow Humberside officers. This is what Supt Bates said at the time “I sat and watched it (the CCTV) with my team. I remember the silence in the room as we watched it. Every minute that went by that he (Chris Alder) was laid on the floor, I was actually willing, I remember mentally willing, someone to go and look at him. Eventually they did, but it seemed an age. I remember being shocked“.

Holt, in all these circumstances, did not trouble himself to have contact with any member of the Alder family for 26 days after Christopher’s death which was a failing of sensitivity, as well as competence and professionalism. He also abandoned any use of formal policy logs, as referred to above, after just four days of the inquiry.

Holt also failed to have two crime scenes secured for his own investigation (the hospital and the Waterfront Club vicinity), he allowed almost all of the statement taking to be done by Humberside Police, the very force he was supposed to be investigating, none of the blood samples taken either at the death scene or from the van that transported Chris Alder from hospital to police station were ever sent for forensic analysis, the missing tooth knocked from Chris’s mouth was never accounted for forensically nor were the injuries not sustained in the nightclub altercation ever investigated. The IPCC also noted in their extensive Review that Holt should have investigated the actions of PC’s Dawson and Blakey from the moment they arrived at the Waterfront Club. It was their actions, inactions and false/adverse assumptions that planted the seeds of what grew into a tragic ending of life.

There is also the mystery of the missing belt belonging to Chris Alder that Holt never even attempted to solve, and the fact that he allowed virtually all the exhibits collected by Humberside Police to be incinerated just over three months after the death is another sure sign of his incompetence. In a letter to Ruth Bundey of Leeds solicitors, Harrison Bundey (now Ison Harrison), dated 25th Janauary, 2000 Holt apologised for this particular action. In this regard, the IPCC unequivocally say this about Holt: For an experienced SIO Supt Holt seems to have little concept of the purposes of forensic scientific analysis.

Most crucially, perhaps, although the IPCC gloss over this, is that when the five officers, by then suspected of the manslaughter of Chris Alder, were eventually interviewed by Holt, some six weeks later, there was no comparative interview analysis undertaken and no secondary interviews. It was the whitewash that Humberside were looking for when they called in West Yorkshire Police. It was submitted to the IPCC, by Humberside’s C/Insp Beckett, that according to ACC Gordon Clark: ‘West Yorkshire owed Humberside a favour’ and apart from the geographic proximity that was the sole basis for their appointment. The same Clark, by then promoted to DCC, who fought relentlessly to prevent disciplinary hearings being heard concerning the actions of the infamous five. Surprisingly, Clark was publicly flayed by the IPCC in their 2006 Review on this point.

Hard to bear for the Alder family, on top of Holt’s complete failings on family liasion, but a West Yorkshire Police whitewash is the only feasible concusion that can be drawn from all that evidence.