Bereaved mother: Met Police boss ‘all about protecting the brand’

Mina Smallman, whose two daughters were murdered in June 2020, said Cressida Dick had been ‘ineffectual’ in tackling problems in the force’s culture.

15 February 2022

A bereaved mother has accused Dame Cressida Dick of “smokescreening” to protect the Metropolitan Police “brand” over issues with officers sharing highly disturbing messages on WhatsApp.

Mina Smallman told BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour that the outgoing Met Commissioner had implied that harrowing images shared by officers who were supposed to be guarding the scene of the murder of her daughters, Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry, were an isolated issue.

But earlier this month, watchdog the Independent Office for Police Conduct published WhatsApp and Facebook messages exchanged by a separate group of officers based at Charing Cross police station between 2016 and 2018 that included references to domestic violence, rape, violent racism and derogatory terms for gay and disabled people.

Cressida Dick resigned in a shock move last week
Dame Cressida Dick resigned in a shock move last week (Victoria Jones/PA)

Dame Cressida announced her resignation on February 10.

Ms Smallman said: “People thought I was being overly emotional and criticising the police on an isolated incident, but my instincts told me that that just wasn’t the case.

“Now, if you remember, the photographs of our girls were taken in 2020 and Cressida Dick was on record and said ‘If this is true, it’s appalling’. Blah, blah.

“She already knew that there was an investigation going on… started in 2017 about WhatsApp groups. So she would have known that this wasn’t an isolated incident.”

Ms Smallman added: “When this (Charing Cross) report came out, I thought ‘You knew, you knew, and you were all about protecting the brand’.”

Asked if she felt misled by the Commissioner, she said: “I think she was smokescreening.”

The IOPC report on the Charing Cross officers found that issues with such messages “are not isolated or historic”.

Former archdeacon Ms Smallman met Dame Cressida in the wake of the murders of Ms Smallman and Ms Henry, who were stabbed to death at a birthday celebration in Fryent Country Park, Wembley, north-west London, in June 2020.

Two constables, Deniz Jaffer and Jamie Lewis, had been assigned to guard the scene of the killings, but instead moved from their posts to take photographs of the bodies, which were then shared with colleagues and friends on WhatsApp.

Sisters Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman, who were murdered in June 2020
Sisters Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman were murdered in June 2020 (Victoria Jones/PA)

One was a “selfie-style” image on which Lewis had superimposed his own face, and the victims were described as “dead birds”.

Initially, Ms Smallman had backed the Commissioner to stay in her job, but told the BBC she became disillusioned after the murder of Sarah Everard and failings being identified in how the Met had dealt with the missing persons report for her daughters.

She said: “Gradually I just began to see and understand that, you know, she was completely ineffectual.

“As a woman, I don’t want to focus on her in that way. It’s the job, it could have been a man, but it happens to be a woman and there’s lots to celebrate about her career.

“But she failed in the key elements of women’s safety, race issues, homophobia – you name it, it’s rife. And not just in the Met.

“So, in the end, I think her position became untenable, completely.”

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