Officer dismissed after asking colleague for photo of decomposed body to show relative

A Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) officer who asked a colleague to send an image of a decomposed body via WhatsApp has been dismissed without notice following a misconduct hearing.

Jan 30, 2023

PC Bonnie Murphy asked for the photograph of a deceased man, who had died in non-suspicious circumstances at a house in East London, from former MPS officer PC Jamie Lewis so she could show a relative.

Lewis, who was previously sacked and jailed in 2021 for sharing photos of double murder victims Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry, would also have been dismissed if he was still a serving officer.

The hearing also heard Lewis helped PC Murphy cheat a driving exam in March 2020 by sharing copies of previous exam material and answers.

The disciplinary hearing, organised by the MPS, followed an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), which stemmed from its inquiry into the taking and sharing of Wembley crime scene photographs of Ms Smallman and Ms Henry.

The IOPC said its investigators found material on Lewis’ phone which showed that in January 2020 he was asked on WhatsApp by PC Murphy to send a photo of a decomposed body at a house in Newham, East London, so she could show a relative.

Lewis subsequently shared the photo via WhatsApp on the evening of January 27, 2020. Lewis had been sent the photo by another officer and failed to report or challenge the officer and Murphy for requesting it.

The day after Lewis was arrested over the Wembley incident, PC Murphy told her supervisor that Lewis had also sent her WhatsApp messages asking her if she wanted the answers to the police basic driver written exam.

“When she agreed, Lewis sent her previous police driving exam material and the answer sheet to the exam he had taken the previous month. She also used Google during the exam,” said the IOPC.

“At the conclusion of our investigation, we decided both officers had a case to answer for gross misconduct.”

The misconduct panel, led by an independent legally qualified chair, found that both officers, who were based at North East Command Unit, had breached standards of professional behaviour at the level of gross misconduct for honesty and integrity.

The PC who took the image at the scene on a personal phone and sent it to Lewis said it was to allow former offcer to assess whether it would be appropriate for probationary officers to attend the address for their own learning in dealing with sudden deaths.

The PC attended a misconduct meeting with a senior officer on August 16. Also in attendance were the IOPC and a family member. Misconduct was not proven, however, the officer was required to take part in reflective practice in relation to sharing the photo with a colleague, and sharing it using social media. The officer apologised to the family for the distress caused.

Lewis was dismissed in November 2021 after being convicted of misconduct in public office for taking inappropriate photographs at the scene of the double murder in Wembley of sisters Ms Henry and Ms Smallman. He was sentenced to two years and nine months in prison, with half to be served in prison and half on licence. Lewis is already on the Barred List held by the College of Policing and the MPS said Murphy will now also be added.

MPS Chief Superintendent Simon Crick, policing commander for the North East, said: “The conduct of these officers was far below what both the public and I expect. It also further undermines our efforts to rebuild trust and confidence in our communities.

“There was no policing purpose for the image to be shared with PC Murphy, and neither officer considered this was inappropriate behaviour that should have been challenged and reported. This is totally unacceptable.

“My thoughts are with the family of the man. I totally understand how distressing this must be for them.

“I expect officers on my command to conform to the highest standards of behaviour and any officer who falls below these standards can expect to be dealt with robustly.”

IOPC regional director Sal Naseem said: “The period after a person’s death is already difficult enough for their loved ones, so to learn that an image has been taken and shared inappropriately by police officers only compounds their grief, undermines their confidence in the MPS and the profession as a whole.

“We welcome the panel’s decision and hope today’s outcome demonstrates that this behaviour is not treated lightly and can result in serious consequences for the officers involved.

“Though PC Murphy was fairly new to her role, she had undertaken multiple training courses and would have known her request to obtain a death scene photo for personal purposes was in breach of professional standards.

“Lewis failed to challenge PC Murphy’s behaviour and was willing to help her cheat in an exam. Both officers also showed a complete lack of respect to this deceased man and his family.

“Lewis has already been jailed for his disgraceful actions by taking and sharing photos of murder victims and this investigation further illustrates that he was unfit to serve as a police officer.

“Our thoughts remain with the family at this difficult time.”

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