A senior detective is to face a disciplinary hearing for breaking the rules over how he questioned a suspect even though his tactics led to the discovery of the bodies of two missing women.
In a report published earlier this week, the police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, described Detective Superintendent Steve Fulcher's interview of taxi driver Chris Halliwell as “catastrophic” and argued that he should face a charge of gross misconduct.
Wiltshire police said on Thursday that Fulcher would be required to face a formal conduct hearing.
Fulcher was investigating the disappearance of 22-year-old Swindon woman Sian O'Callaghan in 2011 when he ordered his prime suspect, Halliwell, to be taken to a hilltop, where he spoke to him without warning him of his rights or giving him the chance to speak to a solicitor.
Halliwell led Fulcher to the spot where he had dumped O'Callaghan's body – and to a field where he said he had buried a second woman, Becky Godden-Edwards, some years previously.
The taxi driver was jailed for O'Callaghan's murder but did not face trial over Godden-Edwards' death because a judge ruled that the hilltop interview was unlawful and there was no other evidence linking Halliwell to her.
Earlier this week the IPCC heavily criticised Fulcher for ignoring the rules surrounding how suspects should be treated and also for meetings with the media that it said were inappropriate.
A Wiltshire police spokeswoman said: “We have reviewed the IPCC's report and its recommendations. As a result, Wiltshire police has taken the decision that Detective Superintendent Steve Fulcher will be required to attend a formal conduct hearing.
“This is a complex and emotive matter that involves a number of parties. We believe that it is important that this should be dealt with through the right process, fairly, independently and in an open and transparent manner.
“We are currently in the process of arranging the conduct hearing with an independent panel of senior officers from other forces so that due process can continue. Wiltshire Police are continuing to offer welfare support to D/Supt Fulcher throughout this ongoing process.”
Godden-Edwards' mother, Karen Edwards, has backed Fulcher, describing him as her “hero” for finding out what had happened to her daughter. The woman's father, John Godden, complained about Fulcher's actions.